Colombia – Soldiers are illegally holding a member of the Peace Community prisoner

Another human rights violation in Colombia. We received this communiqué out of Colombia and are sharing it here in the hopes of inspiring reflection.  

‘On Saturday, 8 February 2014, at around 11.40 a.m., Wber Areiza was held prisoner for 30 minutes by troops of the XVII Brigade from the military base in San José, at an illegal checkpoint set up next to San José de Apartado. The troops claimed that he was «suspicious» but released him when a group from our Peace Community arrived at the spot where he was being held. However, just minutes later, another group of soldiers illegally detained him again. He is currently being held prisoner by military troops in the same way the paramilitaries do: they assure us that they will release Areiza if a family member or acquaintance comes forward, ignoring the presence of the large group of people from our community, who all know him, as Wber grew up in our Peace Community.

Therefore, we urgently call on the national and international community to urge the national government and authorities to release Wber Areiza immediately, as we are concerned that Wber may be handed over to the paramilitaries who patrol the region in total complicity with the military. Areiza had already been threatened by soldiers on 15 January 2014.’

SUPPORT THE PHILIPPINES Cta.No. 0182 5709 43 0201503066


Cagayán de Oro, Philippines, 12 November 2013

We thank you for keeping the people of the Philippines, who have suffered so much recently, in your prayers.

First Muslim rebels from Zamboanga attacked, using civilians as a human shield and burning people’s homes in three municipalities, forcing residents to flee and take refuge in shelters. Economic losses are in the billions of pesos, although I cannot give you an exact figure.

A few weeks later came the earthquake in Bohol, an island not far from Cagayán de Oro; churches of great historical value were destroyed, along with the homes of thousands of people. The quake caused  a considerable number of deaths and material damage.

Then came Typhoon Haiyan (called ‘Yolanda’ in the Philippines), and its 330 kph winds. It destroyed an entire city, Tacloban, where the roofs of buildings were blown off and the sea reached heights of over ten metres. Cameras showed people running to take shelter but the water came so fast that they drowned; children, adults . . . no one was spared. In another area some people took shelter in the church, but it was flooded and everyone died. The pictures of the effects of the typhoon are just devastating.

Lilian is from Leyte. Her relatives lived in Tacloban . . . She hasn’t heard from anyone but a cousin, who was finally able to reach someone in the family, but that’s just one part of the family. Where are the rest of them? They just don’t know. Her mother is very worried: she hasn’t heard from her elderly brother. Our novice Bebe is very close to her grandmother, who is like a mother to her. Bebe’s grandmother lives in Leyte. She hasn’t heard from her either . . . Misery, despair and hopelessness are all around us.

The Company of Mary is currently working on coordinating with a group from the Diocese that is exploring the area so that they can decide where volunteers are needed. Once the decision is made, our young sisters will go there to volunteer, along with some young people and missionaries. But now we just have to wait, because we can’t act on our own.

When the typhoon was on its way, we prayed that it wouldn’t reach Cagayan de Oro, as the area is still feeling the effects of the severe tropical storm Washi (called Sendong here), which hit the area in 2011, killing 1200 people and destroying our field missions. But that doesn’t even come close to what has happened in Leyte. As you can see, the Philippine people, the whole nation, are suffering. The pictures speak to the suffering of our people.

You may wonder why so many buildings were completely destroyed by the typhoon . . . In part the destruction is due to the fact that the buildings were made of lightweight materials, bamboo and palm wood. Most of these people, who live along the beach, are fishing families living hand to mouth. The high wind speeds and climate change were also factors in this great tragedy.

We want to thank you for your messages of support, love and concern at this time, when we, too, are feeling the great pain of our people.

Our warmest regards to all of you.


Lucero Marquez, odn

and the sisters of our communities in the Philippines.


On Sunday, 15 December a number of events were held in Fuente de las Batallas Square in Granada to raise awareness of and speak out against human rights abuse, with the slogan ‘OPEN YOUR EYES: DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS!’

The events, organised by a number of different organisations, including Acción en Red (Network Action), Semilla para el Cambio (Seeds for Change), Amnesty International, the Arco Iris Association, ASPA, the Human Rights Association of Andalucía and FISC, were a great success. After holding organisational meetings, preparing materials and putting a great deal of passion into the events, we were all very happy with the results and enjoyed the day immensely.

We had great weather; residents and tourists alike took advantage of the beautiful day to walk around the square and check out Christmas crafts, visit the organisations’ stands and learn about what they do—they asked lots and lots of questions!—and sign petitions in support of different campaigns. They visited the ‘human library’ as well, and learned what we were doing there and why we are fighting for human rights. They looked at the displays we had set up and were shocked by the photographs of the border between Melilla and Morocco. They danced to catchy music and took pictures in the photo booth, wearing huge glasses to help them see what’s happening around us more clearly and they simply kept us company, encouraged us and joined their own voices to ours, talking to us about what it is that we do. That means so much to us, and—if it’s even possible—makes us open our eyes even wider and fight even harder to defend our human rights!

Thank you to all for participating, for being there, because this wouldn’t be possible without you!

Genetically modified foods

What are genetically modified organisms? Who produces them and why? What is the situation in Spain? What are the health effects of GMOs?






FISC (Fundación Internacional de Solidaridad Compañía de María, or International Solidarity Foundation of the Company of Mary Our Lady), a development NGO, will be holding a series of conferences in the Basque Country the first week of November to explore the subject ‘A HUNGRY WORLD: GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS AND FAMILY FARMING’.

What are genetically modified organisms? Who produces them? Why? What is the situation in Spain? How do GMOs harm agriculture and the environment? What are their health effects? How do they relate to self-sufficiency and food security? These are just a few of the questions that the conferences will address. The conferences will conclude with an open session in which guests can pose questions and debate the issue. They will include a screening of Basque filmmaker Maider Oleaga’s documentary Family Farming in Bolivia, which follows the lives of the residents of the municipality of Colquechaca, located in one of the poorest rural areas in Bolivia, where FISC carries out development cooperation projects with funding from the Basque Government.

The conferences will feature speaker Juan-Felipe Carrasco Alix, an agricultural engineer who specialises in the consequences of biotechnology and advocates for justice in food and agriculture.

The work of FISC and the Company of Mary Our Lady is informed by a deep commitment to education for development and development cooperation and focuses on human rights, gender equity and capacity building among individuals and communities in order to help build a society that is just, participatory and committed to defending peace and freedom.

FISC’s Education for Development Department invites you to attend the conferences and cover the event so that we might spread the word in the Basque Country about this socially relevant topic. Please contact M. Luz Sarabia, Director of FISC’s Education for Development Department, at 628 073 010 or by e-mail,, to request further information.

If you would like to get in touch with Juan-Felipe Carrasco, he can be reached at 644 038 696 or by e-mail,

The conferences will be held at 7 p.m. on 4, 5, and 6 November at the Loyola Centres in Bilbao, San Sebastián and Vitoria, respectively. (Loyola Centre in Bilbao: Arrupe Etxea Multi-Purpose Hall, 2 Lojendio Street; Loyola Centre in San Sebastían: Arrupe Hall, 19 Garibay Street; Loyola Centre in Vitoria: 1 Monseñor Estenaga Street).

Sincerely, M. Luz Sarabia Lavín (FISC).

*Descargar contenido de la conferencia.

Zero Poverty Campaign

The Reasons Behind the Campaign
Poverty erodes the human rights of millions of people around the world, and the situation is being felt increasingly close to home: in Spain, Andalucía and Granada, poverty continues to grow.

Granada, united against poverty

Granada is home to 105,000 unemployed people and 60,000 families living in poverty. In Andalucía, 2.5 million people (30% of the population) are suffering from poverty, and 300,000 from extreme poverty. In Spain, 10.5 million people (21.8% of the country’s population) live below the poverty line, and 3 million people are living in extreme poverty (according to Caritas). 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty around the globe, and one in eight people suffer from chronic hunger.

We are in the midst of a crisis with a long history and multiple dimensions (economic, political and environmental dimensions have converged with food, energy, cultural and values crises). The concentration of wealth in the hands of a small part of the population is threatening to push the majority of the world’s population into poverty and destroy our planet.
Extreme wealth breeds poverty, as the following figures confirm. Half of the world’s income is in the hands of 10% of the world’s population. The incomes of the world’s wealthiest 1% have increased 60% in the last twenty years. The net income of the 100 wealthiest people in the world, 240 billion dollars, could end extreme poverty four times over, according to Oxfam Intermón’s report The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all.
Public services—health, education, housing—are undergoing cutbacks and being privatised. Workers are being stripped of their rights, and people with disabilities of the policies that guarantee their own rights. Land is being monopolised, and public goods like water are being privatised. The environment is being destroyed. Our society is suffering from gender inequality. Social protest is curtailed, just causes are quashed through intimidation. The people have no control over public policy. All this and more is generating poverty and inequality. In the field of development cooperation, significant, disproportionate cutbacks are hurting efforts to ensure that the basic rights of millions of people are fulfilled and standing in the way of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It is not possible to eradicate poverty and inequality without addressing wealth accumulation, speculation and waste. In order to fight poverty effectively, we must create a just, sustainable world, in which women and men alike can exercise their rights and live free from violence and inequality. Solidarity and universal justice, and the promotion of and respect for human, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, are a matter of justice; our leaders have the obligation to guarantee them and every person in the world has the right to enjoy them.
‘Take action against wealth that breeds poverty!’ was the slogan of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, celebrated on 17 October. It was a week of action against poverty and social exclusion, in which a number of member organisations from the Education for Development and Communications Group of the Association of NGDOs of Granada (Coordinadora Granadina de ONGDs, or CONGRA), including FISC, organised a series of activities designed to raise awareness in Granada.
On Monday, 14 October, representatives from the organisations visited ‘Surtopías’ (‘Southern Utopias’) a new radio programme run by the Association of NGDOs of Andalucía (Coordinadora Andaluza de ONGDs, or CAONGD), to get the word out about the events that were planned as part of the Zero Poverty Campaign in Andalucía.
On Thursday, 17 October we held a press conference at the Euro Arab Foundation and visited ‘Ángeles entre nosotros’ (‘Angels Among Us’), a radio programme run by Caritas.
On Friday, 18 October a screening of the documentary ‘La voz del viento’ (‘The Voice of the Wind’) took place at the Granada’s Mercao Social y Cultural. The documentary follows director Carlos Pons and Jean-Luc, a French farmer, as they travel from Marseilles to Granada, visiting different projects related to permaculture, critical thinking and action, and is imbued with an underlying sense of respect and joie de vivre. At each stop on their journey, the two men talk to the people behind each project and give or exchange seeds. There was quite a large turnout, and after the screening, Daniel, a farmer from Ecovalle (an association that connects farmers and consumers of organic foods in Valle Lecrin) and Fernando López Castellano, an economics professor at UGR and an author of a number of books about poverty and emigration, took the floor to discuss how the documentary relates to poverty and tell us about the many alternative farming initiatives that exist today, initiatives that are helping to reclaim abandoned land and encourage responsible consumption.
FISC participated with a group of 17 volunteers and two teachers who helped plan the events and lead activities. A group of children from the ‘Escuelita’ project run by the Company of Mary Our Lady in northern Granada (in the La Paz neighbourhood) attended the events as well, participating in the awareness raising activities.

CONGRA’s Education for Development and Communications Group is very happy with the success of this group effort. There is still so much to do, but we know that it’s possible if we act together: ‘Take action against wealth that breeds poverty’.

The Joy of Volunteering

People say that nothing compares to the rewards of volunteering in the countries that need it most. Here Pilar Martín, a FISC volunteer, tells us about her own experience in Nueva Vida, Nicaragua.

My name is Pilar Martín Casalderrey, but people call me Pilaja. I am a 62-year-old retired public school teacher and I volunteer for FISC: I work with the NGO REDES DE SOLIDARIDAD (‘Networks of Solidarity’) in Nicaragua. (Link).

The headquarters of Redes is in Sandino City, an hour-long bus ride from Managua. Sandino is a very young city, home to a neighbourhood called Nueva Vida, where Redes works with a marginalised population living in extreme poverty.

To celebrate my retirement in 2011, I decided to complete a year-long volunteer experience, which began in 2012.

My responsibilities that year included working with the school run by Redes de Solidaridad by assisting and advising them in implementing changes that the institution had seen a need for. I also worked as a seventh grade teacher (the seventh grade is comparable to year 1 of secondary school in the Spanish school system) at San Francisco Xavier School, run by the Company of Mary Our Lady in Sandino City.

The experience was very rewarding. As you might expect, I experienced many different things: there were enjoyable moments, challenging ones, unpleasant moments, lonely ones, moments full of laughter, of hard work, of happiness . . . and above all, there were moments of discovery—I learned so much about myself, about others, about what’s happening around us and about a world I had never experienced before, one that has captured my heart.

Barrio Sandino Nicaragua

Barrio Sandino Nicaragua

As a volunteer I saw real poverty with my own eyes; I saw it in my fellow teachers, which had a great impact on me. I lived with fewer possessions and comforts than I had in Spain, but I had so much compared to the people around me, and that makes me feel lucky and very thankful for the life I have been given.

Sometimes it was—and is—hard for me to understand, accept and adapt to the local lifestyle and pace of life and work  . . . and I find myself making the mistake of thinking that my way of doing things is better, more efficient, but then I remind myself that I’m here to share and learn and live.

During my time as a volunteer I have come into contact with many people whose world views are different from mine; meeting them helped me grow, to learn to live life to the fullest. Some of them are now a big part of my life.

I returned to Spain in 2013, but eight months later I decided to return to the country, to the people, that I hold so dear to my heart. I’m happy; I’ve found my path for this new stage of my life, one that gives me the opportunity to take risks, to live new and different experiences. I’ve discovered that this is I want to do with my sixties.

I plan to continue in 2014, but of course you never know what the future has in store for you. In the words of Virgil, sic volvere Parcas: so spin the Fates.