A Shield of Love

"The fields and a warehouse were still burning when we got there. A mother, in shock, emerged from the doorway of a home. We were told that the blood we saw was that of her three children—an infant and two toddlers—and their grandmother. They had been hit by mortar fire and rushed to the hospital in the town of Esteli. Holes dug in the ground as places of protection for the families of the village to jump into when the shellings came dotted the fields. So did mortar shells. We learned later that the infant died from the attack."

Gail Phares of the Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America described the scene that greeted a group of 30 North Carolinians their first day in Nicaragua in April of this year. The group of professionals, church executives, and former Peace Corps volunteers and missionaries, representing 10 denominations, had arrived in the village of Jalapa near Nicaragua's Honduran border at 4 o'clock in the morning, just after an attack by the U.S.-backed contras, or counterrevolutionary forces, from Honduras.

Two members of the U.S. Congress were also in the border area that day, and it was widely believed that the contras did not continue their attack because of the presence of North Americans. That fact sparked the thinking of the North Carolina group. Jefferson Boyer, an anthropologist and former Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, articulated what was beginning to form in many of the minds and hearts of the group's members: What about setting up a permanent vigil of North Americans on the border to serve as a "protective shield" for the people of Nicaragua who have been made victims of U.S. policy?

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