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An Alliance of Peace and Freedom Fighters

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jose “Chencho” Alas speaks with Pope Francis at “Mercy for Peace and Reconciliation” in Rome

When Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Jose “Chencho” Alas returned from “Mercy for Peace and Reconciliation,” a historic symposium in Rome organized by KAICIID and the Pontifical Council, he reflected on how our divided nation can heal and proclaimed, “We must build a large alliance of freedom and peace fighters.” 

Religious leaders and religiously motivated leaders who attended the November symposium represented diverse religions and nations including Syria, represented by Tanenbaum Peacemaker Hind Kabawat, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Austria, Spain, and the U.S. among others. This was an especially poignant experience for Salvadoran Chencho, a former Catholic Priest and lifelong advocate for the poor, whose own interactions with faith communities and leaders, given the geographical bounds of his work, are often restricted to those solely within Christianity. In Rome, Chencho found commonality and shared visions with fellow peacebuilders and religious leaders of the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim traditions.

Pope Francis spoke eloquently about having a heart for the other as the basis for reconciliation, Chencho and a selected few were asked to provide testimonials of their own work and lives. Chencho spoke of his life’s work to advance the rights of and empower Salvadoran peasants. His unwavering dedication – despite nearly dying for his convictions in the service of others – was clear to those in attendance. When asked what he took from the reflections by his fellow religious leaders on the topics of mercy, peace and reconciliation, Chencho beautifully synthesized his love for both ecology and faith:

At the symposium, listening carefully to the reflections, full of genuine spirit by participants of many different religions, I found a way to describe mercy and reconciliation in an easy-to-explain way. As I’ve loved trees since childhood, the following image came to mind: Mercy is the sap that through the roots nourishes the tree’s trunk, its branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit. In religion, mercy is that sap, that living material and spiritual element that provides unity in our diversity, just as in the tree we see that the roots are not the trunk, or the branches, or the fruit, but all the elements enjoy the same life. We can be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Catholic, and so on, but if we share mercy we live the unity the human family needs to be in peace.

When asked how these lessons from Rome could be applied to healing divided nations today, Chencho stated:

…we, members of different religions shall be united by values and principals based in justice and solidarity to confront any form of oppression, discrimination, or denial of freedom of faith. We must build a large alliance of freedom and peace fighters.

In addendum to Chencho’s powerful words, together we can declare “…we, as a nation, members of different religions, races, ethnicities and gender shall be united by values and principals based in justice and solidarity to confront any form of oppression, discrimination, or denial of freedom of faith.”

As our shared values unite us, we take the steps needed to heal divided communities, one person at a time.

By Ritu Mukherjee
Evaluation Program Assistant


To learn more about Chencho’s work in El Salvador please purchase a copy of his Land, Liberation, and Death Squads published by Wipf and Stock Publishers by sending a message to orders@wipfandstock.com or calling 541-344-1528.

Sixty percent (60%) of the income is for the Foundation for Sustainability and Peacemaking in Mesoamerica (discover-peace.org).

Religious diversity is increasing at the office, and so are pitfalls: Top 5 News Stories

Religious diversity is increasing at the office, and so are pitfalls

As religious diversity in the workplace increases, the opportunities for conflicts over religions also rises. In fact, one-third of American workers report that they have seen or experienced religious bias in the workplace. From Atheists to Evangelicals, discrimination based on beliefs or non-beliefs is a significant issue for employers and employees alike.

March on Washington showcased religious roots of Civil Rights …    

Modern advocates for civil rights often forget that the Civil Rights movement was largely grounded in religious roots. Religious leaders used their pulpits and their religions as sources for justice and racial equality. "It was natural for blacks to turn to the church in the civil rights movement as it was always this solid rock amid oppression," Aldon Morris, a sociologist at Northwestern University said. "You could summon up a great deal of courage through religion. It could empower people to confront all kinds of obstacles, including violence."

Labor Day and the unions' forgotten religious roots    

Labor Day orignated as the brain-child of the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor. The first labor unions joined forces with religious insitutions to defend the poor and provide legitimacy to the movement. But as religiosity is on the decline, the future of Labor Day hangs in the balance.

Atheist group can sue IRS over enforcement of pulpit politicking

A federal judged granted the atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation permission to proceed with its lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service. The group is suing the IRS for not enforcing its ban on the political activity of tax-exempt religious organizations. The FFRF wants the IRS to strengthen the ban.

Haynes column: School surrenders to religious intolerance    

A school put up a bullitein board about the five pillars of Islam as part of a curriculum that educates students about different faiths within their historical context. A picture of the board uploaded to facebook sparked community outrage as the misleading tag accused the board of promoting Islam while Christian prayers were strictly forbidden. Though this was not the purpose of the bullitein board, and other bullitein boards featuring different religions are placed around the school, the administration decided to take down the board on Islam.