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Statement by the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) stands in solidarity with the peacemakers whose homes were raided by the FBI on Friday September 24, 2010. FBI agents entered eight homes and offices in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, confiscating crates full of computers, books, documents, notebooks, cell phones, passports, children’s drawings, photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, videos and personal belongings. 11 peacemakers were served with subpoenas to appear before a grand jury to be convened in Chicago on Oct 4th, 2010. With these raids and subpoenas the justice department is attempting to criminalize justice and peace workers who are exercising their civil rights as well as their religious freedom to speak truth to power. The justice department is justifying these actions under the”material support to foreign terrorist’s organization” statute. The frightening problem is that this statute is so broadly written that it can and does include international peace building activities that are not in any way intended to support terrorism. These actions come just days after the Office of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General issued a report sharply critical of F.B.I. surveillance of peace groups from 2002 – 2006, concluding that there was no factual basis for the terror claims. The inspector general report also found that F.B.I. Director Mueller testified falsely to Congress about the surveillance of peace groups.
These actions by the justice department are reminiscent ofthe Palmer Raids, the McCarthy hearings, J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, and mark a new and dangerous chapter in the assault on civil liberty and religious freedom that began in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks with the U.S. Patriot Act.
For the last twenty years CRLN has accompanied the people ofLatin America in their struggles for justice and peace. Our sisters and brothers in Latin America have been smeared and falsely accused of either being or supporting terrorists. These tactics typical of repressive regimes have been used to justify the imprisonment, torture and assassination of people of faith. Tragically these repressive regimes have been supported by the US government and trained by the U.S. Army School of the Americas.
Our solidarity with the peacemakers currently under attack by the justice department and our standing with our sisters and brothers in Latin America is grounded in our faith traditions. We are called to a ministry of seeking justice, peace and reconciliation. Justice is the prerequisite of true peace. It will be by the work of God’s spirit that justice and peace will reign. “Justice shall be God’s girdle and faithfulness about God’s waist.” (Isaiah 11: 5) As God’schildren we have chosen to be God’s voice, hands and feet in building God’s realm of love for humanity and all of creation. “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life if you and your offspring would live by loving your God.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 – 20) In choosing life we are called to resist actions that endanger life through repressive and militaristic policies. You cannot protect freedom by silencing the voices of freedom, you cannot protect life by killing, and you cannot bring peace through war.
In the face of these attacks by the justice department we cannot remain silent, doing so would be denial of what we believe and teach in our congregations. We will not be intimidated by these repressive actions. Our commitment is to continue working with our sisters and brothers who work for peace here in the United States and throughout the hemisphere. Repressive tactics won’t divide us. As Martin Niemoller reminds us: “They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
We demand that the justice department stop the raids, return all of the property that was taken and disband the grand jury. We urge elected officials to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the abuses of the justice department. We call on the religious community to educate their congregations about this threat to their civil liberties and religious freedom, publicly condemn the action of the justice department and become actively involved in the struggle to roll back the police state apparatus. We will not give up our civil rights or religious freedom.
CRLN Executive Committee
October 4, 2010