Peace Scholar Post: A World More Just and Humane…

This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Anne Savereide from Concordia College.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his non-violent activism for human rights in Latin America.  In his acceptance speech he said, “the Christian must act, not based on the conviction that the Christian posses the key to the secrets of social problems…but must act together with all men of good will, with humble strength to support the building of a world more just and humane.”

annepicI think that this concept of responsibly working for the betterment of our world applies to everyone, especially those engaging in development.  I’ve focused my research here on development as accompaniment using Mano a Mano as an example.  Mano a Mano partners with communities and municipal governments in rural Bolivia to complete community-requested projects including roads, reservoirs, schools and clinics. Mano a Mano acts with cultural sensitivity and humility as it makes necessary connections to improve health and economic well-being in neglected areas.

Non-profit organizations are under pressure to present a series of cost-effective, timely successes,​​​​ and I expected to be somewhat disillusioned with the organization when I volunteered in Bolivia for a few months last fall.  Instead, I gained a deeper understanding and respect for the variety and complexity of the problems that Mano a Mano overcomes.  

I particularly admire the evident, mutual trust and respect between Mano a Mano and the communities they work with.  I accompanied Mano a Mano staff to a preliminary meeting with community leaders in Jirankota, a small village high in the Andes.  The meeting was to discuss the construction of greenhouses to increase food security and improve nutrition.  Camila, a Mano a Mano agronomist, came with ideas of various types of greenhouses and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each with community leaders to come to a consensus.  Mano a Mano seeks out and values community opinions, and is very intentional about creating a relationship of full partnership.  
As many writing on development have noticed, we live in a “crisis culture,” that responds to direct violence and ignores the structural violence and the silent cries of poverty and inequality, especially in areas as remote as rural Bolivia. There is nothing natural or inevitable about it.  It is a product of human-made political and economic systems. Transforming those systems is extremely complicated and difficult,  but organizations like Mano a Mano give me hope as they make real progress toward the kind of world Esquival envisions.
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