Sarah Augustine is co-director of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund and chair of the Coalition’s Structures Committee. You can read more about the situation Sarah describes below here.
Over two years ago Miskito leaders living in exile contacted our small human rights organization, Suriname Indigenous Health Fund, to ask us for help. The Miskito are an Indigenous people living in Nicaragua. They said they had read about us, specifically how we worked directly with communities in Suriname struggling to remain on their traditional lands. The Miskito people gained legal recognition and negotiated an autonomous homeland during the civil war in Nicaragua in the 1980s. However, they are losing their lands now as government-sponsored settlers push them out of their villages, homes and territories in a systematic and violent process of land-grabbing. On this very day, men women and children forced from their homes at gunpoint just days ago are making camp in the rainforest without food, sanitation, or clean water. How do I know? Miskito leaders called us directly. The region is on the brink of civil war.
Over the past two years, we have appealed to domestic and international leaders, relief organizations including the International Red Cross, and our networks in the faith community. We have been told by officials at the Red Cross and by political leaders that our “concerns are unfounded,” and that the situation is stable. We have watched and listened as more people each day are made refuges in their own country. Every week, sometimes many times in a week, we received video footage of killings, audio recordings from victims and eye-witnesses, and written pleas for help. The videos and audio recordings are horrible, unbearable. We want to look away; we do not want to open these digital missives of horror. How are we to respond?
I long for resurrection. In this dry and weary place, I long for hope.
In early November, we will again form a small delegation to meet with decision makers in Washington D.C. We will negotiate for a peace plan on behalf of an angry people who feel they have no options; we will plead for a just response from our people.
Our delegation is a small group of ordinary people. We are none of us influential or of noble birth. Yet we cooperate with a Spirit larger than ourselves. In my heart, I long for the assurance that God has indeed chosen the weak things of the world to shame the strong. We ask that you join with us in prayer as we prepare for our envoy of peace and that you reach out across space to your networks of faith to join with us in prayer. I claim Paul’s words from I Corinthians 1 for this journey:
God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.