Christians and Contras

In the fall of 1983, Sojourners helped to launch the Witness for Peace, a venture of faith and prayerful nonviolent action, in response to the U.S.-sponsored war against Nicaragua. I was on the first short-term team sent by the Witness for Peace to Nicaragua's northern border where the war was raging. More than 1,400 U.S. citizens have gone there since. All of us have come back deeply touched by what we have seen and heard in Nicaragua.

I remember a Nicaraguan mother who told us of the night the contras came to her home, removed all of the men from the house, and then, in a horrible torrent of bullets, murdered all of her sons and all of her sons-in-law.

I will not easily forget another mother who tearfully told us how her 13-year-old daughter was decapitated by a contra mortar, or the Baptist pastor who could not understand the brutality of the contras who hacked to death with machetes a whole group of evangelical teenagers who were simply teaching campesinos how to read.

The face of 13-year-old Agenor still haunts me, as I picture this young boy carrying a heavy, beat-up rifle on his back to defend his village from contra attacks. And we didn't know what to say to the sobbing young woman who pleaded with us to take her beloved baby boy named Ricardo to safety in the United States because she feared for his life.

Stories. Endless stories. Every Witness for Peace volunteer can tell stories of terror, torture, rape, pillage, and murder carried out by the contras. This mercenary army, created and sustained by the U.S. government and orchestrated by the CIA, engages in a consistent pattern of savage terrorism to which we have been eyewitnesses and which international human rights groups have thoroughly documented.

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