Witness for Peace (WFP) is a politically independent, nationwide grassroots organization of people committed to nonviolence and led by faith and conscience. WFP’s mission is to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing U.S. policies and corporate practices that contribute to poverty and oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean. We stand with people seeking justice.
The Witness for Peace Covenant
We commit ourselves to nonviolence in word and in deed as the essential operating principle of Witness for Peace;
We commit ourselves to honesty and openness in our relationships with one another;
We commit ourselves to a reflective, spiritual approach and unity with one another as the foundations for this project [subject to individual interpretation];
We commit ourselves to be responsible and accountable in our actions to the community of which we are a part and to the principles of leadership, which have been established;
We commit ourselves to maintaining the political independence of Witness for Peace;
We commit ourselves to act in solidarity and community with the Latin American and Caribbean people, respecting their lives, their culture, and their decisions. We will respect the suggestions of our hosts with regard to our presence and mobility in another land;
We commit ourselves to record our witness and, upon return, to share our experience with the North American people through the media, public education and political action.
Witness for Peace Anti-Oppression Statement
Our organizational mission and covenant call us to be advocates for peace and justice in Latin America and the Caribbean. For the same reasons that we campaign for just policies in the global economy, we must also strive for peace and justice at home in the United States, in our communities, and in our own lives. This statement affirms our commitment, as members of the Witness for Peace community, to the continued challenge of working to liberate ourselves and others from all forms of oppression by improving our organizational culture, policies, and practices.
We understand oppression to mean systems of inequality that impact us on various planes of our identity: our age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, national origin, our mental or physical ability. The oppressor group receives rewards or privileges for participating in a system that de-humanizes the oppressed group. Messages that further dehumanize the targeted oppressed groups and reinforce oppressive systems are embedded not only in social policy, but also in the media, culture, and social institutions, like schools, workplaces, etc. Both consciously and unconsciously, these messages inform our daily actions and support the very unjust systems that harm us all.
If we are to create spaces that are liberatory, that embrace people’s full potential as human beings, we must recognize that these systems of inequality can and do exist within Witness for Peace. It is up to us to work intentionally to undermine these oppressive systems, not only where they impact U.S. foreign policy, but inside our organization and ourselves. We must educate ourselves on how oppression has shaped our lives, both how we have been oppressed and how we have oppressed, and how we can be protagonists and allies in our joint liberation.
The people of the Americas hold many identities and life experiences. Privilege and oppression are found on both sides of artificially drawn borders. It is imperative to our work that our organization be representative of those who are impacted by unjust policies and practices. Diversity is one natural result of a holistic process that aims towards anti-oppressive thought and action.
While we strive to uphold these values, we understand that the work of dismantling systems of oppression in our society is an ongoing process. We each take responsibility for playing our part in making this a reality. We aspire to engage in collective processes of learning and reflection, to open space in the organization for difficult conversations; to make institutional changes that advance equity and inclusion, and to reflect on our individual beliefs and behaviors and how they perpetuate oppression. At the same time, we aspire to approach this work of liberation, within ourselves and with others, with grace and acceptance.
Witness for Peace History
1983: Faith-based peace activists founded Witness for Peace in response to the U.S. funding of the Contras. Over the course of the decade, WFP sent thousands of Americans to Nicaragua to witness the devastating effects of U.S.-sponsored “low intensity warfare.”
1984: Witness for Peace activists across the country organized events to resist Reagan’s war on Central America. Such activism may have averted an all-out U.S. invasion of Nicaragua, and certainly contributed greatly to the effort to cut off U.S. military aid to the Contras.
1985: A Witness for Peace delegation was kidnapped by the Contras on the Rio San Juan. They were released after three days, bringing much-needed media and Congressional attention to the cruelties of the Nicaraguan war.
1990: When the war ended, many NGOs operating in Nicaragua packed up. But as the United States encouraged Nicaragua to embark on a harsh program of structural adjustment, Witness for Peace decided to maintain their presence in the country and delegations continued.
Witness for Peace began to accompany Guatemalan refugees from camps in southern Mexico to their homes.
1992: At the height of the coup that ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide and murdered thousands of Haitians, the Haitian religious community called for an international presence to stand by a people in crisis. In response, Witness for Peace began sending delegations to Haiti.
1993: WFP accompanied tens of thousands of Guatemalan refugees during dangerous repatriation journeys.
1994: Witness for Peace helped organize the first vigil to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, which trains Latin American soldiers in brutal combat and counterinsurgency methods.
Witness for Peace published Bitter Medicine: Structural Adjustment in Nicaragua, a ground-breaking resource for activists that put a human face on the impact of structural adjustment policies promoted by the U.S. government through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund.
1995: Witness for Peace organized the first nonviolent public protest ever held at the World Bank.
Witness for Peace published A High Price to Pay: Structural Adjustment and Women in Nicaragua
1996: Witness for Peace published the report A People Damned, prompting the World Bank to investigate and rectify its failure to adequately resettle people displaced by the Chixoy Damn in Guatemala.
1997: Staff and membership worked closely with workers in Nicaragua’s Free Trade Zone, securing the first union contract ever for Nicaraguan factory workers.
1998: WFP opens an office in Chiapas, Mexico shortly after the massacre of the pacifist Abejas in Chiapas in Dec of 1997. In 2000, the team moved to Mexico City, and ever since 2005 has been based out of Oaxaca.
1998: International Team members and delegates were among the first on the scene in Nicaragua to aid with reconstruction and much needed medical care after Hurricane Mitch.
1999: Witness for Peace established an active delegations program in Cuba. Delegates worked to expose the human costs of the U.S. embargo. Over the next four years, thousands of activists traveled to Cuba with Witness for Peace.
2000: Witness for Peace published A Bankrupt Future, a groundbreaking 40-page report on the devastating human effects of the debt crisis in Nicaragua.
Witness for Peace opened our Colombia office to document the human, social, and environmental effects of Plan Colombia, a multi-billion dollar military and counter-narcotics funding package for the Colombian armed forces.
2001: Several monumental Witness for Peace delegations travel to Colombia, including a 100-person delegation of religious, union, and organizational leadership, and a historic bipartisan delegation of Congressional staff.
2002: Witness for Peace led the a coalition organizing the National Mobilization on Colombia, which brought 10,000 people to Washington, D.C. to challenge our policymakers to end support for paramilitary death squads and destructive counter-narcotics fumigation in Colombia.
Witness for Peace published “In Our Name? The Cycles of Military and Economic Violence in Latin America”, our most extensive publication to date. The report examines trends in U.S. intervention over the last century.
2003: Witness for Peace marked our 20th Anniversary working for peace and justice in Latin America by sending simultaneous delegations to all of our program sites and lobbying Congress for foreign policy changes in DC.
2004: Mobilized thousands of activists to demonstrate the failures of the free trade model when CAFTA was brought to Congress for approval. The agreement only passed by two votes after arm-twisting and backroom deals by the Bush Administration.
2005: The organization sent 16 delegations to Cuba in the first four months of the year, just before President Bush’s regulation changes revoked Witness for Peace’s license to travel to Cuba.
2006: Witness for Peace sent our first delegations to Venezuela and Bolivia.
The organization mobilized an emergency delegation to Oaxaca, Mexico while striking teachers were being brutally repressed by state policy for seeking living wages and modest working conditions.
Witness for Peace launched the 1st Annual Days of Action for Colombia.
2007: Witness for Peace and partners achieved a landmark legislative victory for human rights in Colombia when Congress approved a shift away from military aid and toward humanitarian and social aid.
2008: Witness for Peace celebrated 25 years of Building Bridges of Hope through solidarity with our Latin American neighbors.
2009: Witness for Peace organized a rapid-response delegation to Honduras to document human rights violations in the wake of the June coup and speak out against the role of the United States.
2009: Six leaders of the previous year’s sugar cane cutters’ strike in Colombia face trial on criminal charges based on the false testimony of a witness in the pay of the establishment. Witness for Peace raises the visibility of the case and accompanies the defendants through the multi-year trial that ends with their complete exoneration on all charges.
2010: More than 43,000 people took part in the 5th Annual Days of Action for Colombia.
2011: Hondurans face a human rights crisis, with U.S.-backed security forces targeting farmers, journalists and human rights defenders. Witness for Peace began providing protective accompaniment to Hondurans under threat through a mobile accompaniment and reporting team deployed from the WFP Nicaragua office.
2012: ASOTRECOL, an association of Colombian General Motors workers injured while assembling vehicles at the Colmotores plant in Bogota, begin a hunger strike at their tent encampment in front of the U.S. embassy to protest being illegally fired due to their workplace injuries and demand reinstatement or compensation. Witness for Peace stands with the workers through a failed mediation with the company and beyond, bringing ASOTRECOL’S president Jorge Parrra to the U.S. for the second time, organizing solidarity fasts and protests around the country with religious leaders, labor rights activists and corporate responsibility advocates. Witness for Peace, SumOfUs.org and others deliver a petition signed by 75,000 activists to GM headquarters in Detroit to demand the company return to meaningful negotiations with the injured workers. Witness for Peace continues to accompany injured workers in Colombia.
2014: In strife-torn Buenaventura, Colombia, the Humanitarian Space of Puente Nayero is inaugurated by its residents in April as a non-violent alternative and project for life. Witness for Peace and other international organizations accompany Puente Nayero in rotation in order to discourage paramilitary retaliation and mitigate official indifference.
2014: Witness for Peace conducts a year-long process, the Peace Minga, to bring reconciliation to internal disaccords and develop consensus about the path forward. In the same year, the national organization weathers a financial crisis that threatens its survival.
2015: Witness for Peace begins to rebuild international teams and restore community-wide involvement in organizational planning and working groups.
2016: Witness for Peace opened our Honduras office in response to the critical need for human rights accompaniment and solidarity.