One of the most urgent issues for faith communities during the 1980s was the contra war in Nicaragua. Seeking to make the Sandinista government a whipping post for its anti-communist fervor, the Reagan administration sponsored a guerrilla army that was little more than organized terror against the Nicaraguan people. The war brutalized the country, drained the revolution of scarce resources, demoralized the population, and led to the end of the Sandinistas in the 1990 elections.
Jennifer Atlee-Loudon's Red Thread is a jolting recollection of those times and those struggles. Atlee-Loudon was in Nicaragua for the better part of 10 years as a member of Witness for Peace, a faith-based group organized to provide a nonviolent presence for communities ravaged by war. Her first-hand diary provides graphic accounts of the physical, psychological, and ultimately political effects of the U.S. policy on people she came to know and love. It is tough reading: You can feel the palpable fear of villagers awaiting an imminent contra attack, the grief and rage of victims in the aftermath of violence, the slow burn of fading hope as the war wreaks devastation on the fragile revolutionary experiment.
Atlee-Loudon also recounts with overwhelming eloquence her own soul-wrenching spiritual crisis of confronting brutality and death. At times, Atlee-Loudon sounds like a biblical prophet railing against the madness and inhumanity around her. At other times, she is a modern Job shaking fists at divine impotence in the midst of innocent suffering. With a searing honesty, she labels the U.S. policy evil. But she also believes in grace and hope and humanity that defiantly stir in the midst of that evil.