The armed conflict in Guatemala (1960-1996) left deep marks on survivors and on the relatives of those who died or went missing. Its effects are still being felt today. Many people were forced to flee to other parts of the country or to seek refuge beyond its borders. Several decades later, some of those who left because of the conflict embarked on a long journey home to honor the memory of their loved ones at a ceremony held in Quiquil on January 21, 2016.Read More
On Wednesday, the Pope completed a six-day trip to Mexico by praying at the U.S.-Mexico border in the city of Ciudad Juarez. Before celebrating mass at a fairground, the Pontifex paid a visit to the border fence to pray for those who lost their lives on the perilous journey North, alongside a giant metal cross meant to commemorate them. In attendance were tens of thousands, many of whom crossed the border from El Paso, Texas to hear the Pope speak.
During his homily, he called for those listening to have open hearts and recognize the exploitation that drives many to flee their homelands. "We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis" the pope stated, in reference to the thousands of migrants who "are being expelled by poverty and violence, drug trafficking and organized crime". The city of Ciudad Juarez is a pivotal crossing for those trying to reach the United States, and has recently been plagued by drug and migration-related violence. The pope offered words of inspiration to youth to avoid drug trafficking, and took a swipe at Mexico's powerful and corrupt: "the flow of capital cannot decide the flow of people".Read More
This past Monday, long-awaited relief finally came to Madaya, a remote Syrian town on the outskirts of Damascus where more than two dozen people have starved in the past two weeks as a result of humanitarian blocking from pro-government forces. The last time Madaya received any form of aid was October 18, driving residents into such desperation that many have been trying to survive off of grass, leaves, and boiled water. Madaya has garnered an immense international response, with many prominent figures speaking out about the state of horror there. UN Secratary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday called the use of starvation as a weapon a "war crime", and relayed reports from UN teams that the residents of Madaya were "little more than skin and bones: gaunt, severely malnourished, so weak they could barely walk"Read More
Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.
South Sudan: This week, I tweeted the following:
Now, I know that I have been guilty of (over) reporting on violence in South Sudan versus focusing on the work of organizations and individuals to fight for peace, but after this week’s ceasefire agreement, I found it especially egregious the number of news stories that immediately jumped on the possibility of its failure. While I think it is important to draw the attention of the international community to on-going crises, I think there is a way to do so without rewarding violence. This stems from the idea that there is such a thing as peace journalism versus war journalism, which can have an effect on conflict management and resolution.
So with that said, I’m going to share some of the positive news coming out of South Sudan. The United Nations Children’s Fund this week celebrated the continued demobilization and release of children from armed groups in South Sudan. While education has been interrupted in many places across the country, ensuring children are not participating in the violence, but rather are learning in school, whether in their own community, a camp for the displaced, or a refugee camp, is vital for helping South Sudan avoid having a “lost” generation.
The Legacy of Holocaust Survivors: As the community of Holocaust survivors becomes fewer, it is as important as ever to share their stories and ensure that the legacies of those who endured the Holocaust live on. Community partnerships and programs across the US and the globe are helping that take place from art and storytelling projects in Minnesota to partnerships between Holocaust education centers and other community organizations in Ohio. Sharing these legacies helps ensure that future generations know about the Holocaust and work to prevent similar atrocities. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum recently and said that all people “must learn” from this event.
“If we have learned anything from our collective history, it is this: scrambling only for ourselves, our people, our political or religious ideology, or for our own kind will only scramble it all – eventually, sometimes horrifyingly so – for everyone.” – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein.
The Red Cross continues its support to survivors of the Holocaust and their families by helping to reconnect them with their loved ones or providing them with information on the fate of their family. This week, we shared a story from the Colorado and Wyoming Red Cross where a family was connected to a chapter of a family member’s life they never knew about.
US Immigration Policy and Child Migrants: Since the Obama administration released a proposed budget increasing aid to Central American nations, there has been much debate about how to shape US immigration policy, especially concerning the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. A recent policy change allows children in need of international protection to apply for asylum in the US from their country of origin (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador only). The proposed budget would increase foreign aid to the three countries to improve border security, law enforcement, judicial processes, education, infrastructure, etc. It would also help bolster programs in which the US is already invested, such as helping vulnerable migrants returned to these countries from the US and Mexico. It is unclear whether the full proposed budget will be passed.
The final part of our coverage of the migration conference features a panel discussion on missing migrants, the closing keynote presentation by photojournalist Encarni Pindado, and final remarks made by American Red Cross Restoring Family Links Caseworker, Nadia Kalinchuk.
The panel on missing migrants highlights the work of organizations and individuals to find and identify missing migrants and support the families of the missing in Guatemala, Honduras, and along the US-Mexico border. The discussion highlights both the difficulty and the importance of this work - especially when looking at the issue from a "Restoring Family Links" perspective as many families have gone months, years, and even decades without knowing the fate of their loved ones. While the dedication and work of these and many other organizations and volunteer groups helps find and identify many missing migrants, the panel highlights the policy changes needed across the region to avert this humanitarian crisis and bring justice and closure to families of the missing. The panel includes Fredy Peccerelli from Fundacion de Antropologia Forense de Guatemala, Robin Reineke from Colibri Center, Adrienne Pine from American University, and Robert Conrad from the American Red Cross.
The closing keynote presentation by Encarni Pindado focused on her work as a photojournalist, documenting the lives and journeys of migrants in Mexico. Her latest project, Migrazoom, provided cameras and training to migrants, who then documented their own stories through photography. The photo essays are a moving depiction of the protection needs of migrants.
The final remarks made by Nadia Kalinchuk highlighted the importance of all the work being done by the represented organizations and individuals.