Celebrating 15 Years of Constructing Peace in Violent Contexts
May 11, 2012
Kelly Miller, a recent graduate of Goshen College in Goshen, IN, USA, has been assisting in INESIN´s administrative office since September of last year. A Mennonite, she is serving through one of INESIN´s partners, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), and MCC´s Serving and Learning Together program.

“INESIN´s fifteenth anniversary is an enormous celebration. It´s a confirmation that the human desire for peace is stronger than our tendency toward apathy, depression, or even worse, violent conflict.”

(From an interview with Paula Bidle and George Moore, founding members of INESIN. To read the complete interview in Spanish and learn more about INESIN´s foundation, click here)

And celebrate we did! After months of planning, over 250 people including the staff of INESIN, partners, both national and international, and participants in our many projects, gathered to celebrate our 15th anniversary from Friday to Sunday, May 4-6.

Though the overarching theme of our celebration was “contributions of ecumenism and intercultural engagement to the construction of peace in violent times,” we celebrated in a variety of ways, reminding us of the diverse people who are connected to INESIN. Throughout the weekend, Catholics, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Baptists, Mennonites, and those practicing Indigenous Mayan Spirituality could be heard speaking Tsotsil, Tseltal, French, English, and of course Spanish, as we engaged in activities ranging from Mayan prayer to musical concerts to tacos, mariachi music and an ecumenical church service that also marked the beginning of our Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

However, the purpose of our weekend went beyond light-hearted celebration. We also used this time to remember the work INESIN has done to promote ecumenism and intercultural relationships in a part of Mexico where religious division, sown in large part by the Mexican government through tactics of low-intensity warfare, has divided indigenous communities for almost two decades. We also spent time analyzing the “thorns” that have been present in our journey and sharing words of encouragement and advice as INESIN looks toward the next 15 years and beyond. To close Saturday, we planted a pear tree, blessed by jTatic Vicente, an indigenous spiritual leader, in a corner of our grounds. Each member of INESIN´s staff fertilized the new tree with a handful of organic compost as a symbol of our continued commitment to the growth of the organization. This communal act affirmed the last 15 years of work and renewed our commitment to INESIN and the work we carry out. It also reminded us of the long road ahead as we continue to promote peace and just relationships in a region where violence and inequality are still ever-present realities.

On Friday night, Jacques Küng, Secretary General of DM-échange et misión, our Swiss partner, shared the importance of “songs and poetry” in our journey. He said that these acts “strengthen our ability to resist everyday violence, […] ward off resignation and open space for dignity.” In many senses, he highlighted, our resistance stems from the example of a “man of Nazareth, born of a humble girl who dared to sing her hope for justice. This man of Nazareth advanced as far as possible on the road to justice and solidarity. He became a friend to the humble.” Küng went on to connect our conviction, which stems from the life and work of Jesus, to the “songs and poetry” he earlier mentioned. “To nurture this conviction,” he said, “we must dare to share our shouts of anguish and our songs of hope. These shared experiences will not give us food to eat or water to drink; they will not heal our wounds. They will simply remind us that we are alive and walking side-by-side with others under the gaze of a God who both escapes us and loves us.”

This celebration was a song of hope, a song that reminds us that we are not alone in our journey and that we, after 15 years, continue to walk together with the Chiapanecan people, accompanied by sisters and brothers all over the world.

Our worship service on Sunday afternoon ended with a literal interpretation of Küng´s message: INESIN´s ecumenical choir joined together to sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel´s Messiah. As the final notes of the chorus faded into the warm afternoon air, I was reminded of the many songs, of pain, joy, despair and hope that INESIN has sung or witnessed in the past 15 years. I was also reminded of the many songs yet to come as we continue to struggle together in the construction of another world filled with peace and justice for all: “otro mundo posible.”

Click here to see more photos of the weekend´s festivities!

Photo Captions:
(from top to bottom)

1. George Moore, founding member of INESIN, and Fidencia Enzin, Mayan spiritual Leader from Altamirano, exchange flowers as part of Sunday´s ecumenical worship service

2. Felix Ortiz-Cotto, Global Ministries´ Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean, dances with Aida Pérez Jiménez, a Catholic sisterfrom Altamirano, during Friday night´s mariachi music

3. (from left to right) Dario Poroli, Joaquim Hungrecker and Elena Gómez Martínez (all currently part of INESIN´s staff) plant a commemorative pear tree

4. INESIN´s ecumenical choir closes Sunday´s worship service with Handel´s Hallelujah Chorus

Instituto de Estudios e Investigación Intercultural, A.C.

Calle Franz Blom, # 38-A
Cuxtitali, San Cristóbal de las Casas
Chiapas, México 29230

Tel: (967) 674-5481
E-mail: interculturalidad@inesin.org