Name of Fellow: Colleen Beebe
Fellowship Site: Paz y Esperanza, Lima, Peru
Brief History of Organization (founding and salient steps):
“Paz y Esperanza", [Peace and Hope] is a civil non-profit that contributes to the transformation of persons and society from a protestant-evangelical perspective in order to achieve a quality of life in accordance with the principles of God. Its work has to do principally with the promotion of justice and development for the poor. Paz y Esperanza was founded on January 19, 1996 by a group of professionals, pastors and members of various evangelical churches. It has extensive experience in assisting victims of political violence and injustice, in prison ministry, in human rights education and in the promotion of sexual health and the defense and policy advocacy of human rights. (Taken from its website at www.pazyesperanza.org).
Paz y Esperanza’s roots go back to 1984 when six evangelical Christians were murdered by government forces in Huanta, Ayacucho, Peru. As a result, the National Evangelical Council of Peru (“CONEP”) established the Peace and Hope Commission to help victims of the political violence in Ayacucho. This Commission functioned as a program of CONEP until 1996 when Paz y Esperanza incorporated as a separate non-profit in Peru. Over the years, Paz y Esperanza began to represent persons falsely accused of terrorism, family members of disappeared persons and of those extrajudicially executed. Its service is inspired on Christian principles and on the conviction that the churches have a social with relation to the country.
Despite limited resources, Paz y Esperanza has grown significantly since 1996. Currently, it has four regional offices in Peru through which it carries out programs in legal defense, conflict resolution, prison ministry, human rights education, counseling to victims, domestic violence prevention, and church leadership and human rights training.
Departments/Programs in the Organization:
Paz y Esperanza has five programs, including:
(1.) MISPAT: access to justice and pastoral care for victims
Through this program PyE provides:
• legal defense in individual and social human rights violation cases
• pastoral care in prisons
• pastoral care and support to victims of political violence
• monitoring and strengthening of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
(2.) CECONPAZ: conflict resolution and transformation
Through this program PyE provides:
• Education about and promotion of conflict resolution and transformation
• assistance to domestic cases in conciliation centers
(3.) URBANA: citizenship and local development
Through this program PyE provides:
• Education on and promotion of civil involvement
• Training program for community and other leaders on local development
(4.) JADAK: promotion of sexual health
Through this program PyE provides:
• Promotion of sexual health among children, teenagers and young adults
• Therapeutic care in sexuality
• Prevention of sexual abuse and domestic violence against children and teenagers
• Promotion of sexual health among couples
(5.) TRANSFORMA: strengthening Deacons
Through this program PyE provides:
• Deacon’s training program
• Consultation and advice center for non-profits (NGO) and ministries
• Impact/Defense training
Responsibilities/Duties/Tasks undertaken by the Fellow:
I worked in four main areas as a fellow with Paz y Esperanza: (1) investigation and casework for four human rights cases; (2) participation in observing an exhumation carried out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; (3) Coordination of and conducting a course on the inter-American system of human rights; and, (4) participation in and assistance with reparations community workshops and national conference, and symbolic community acts of reparation.
One of the purposes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to investigate human rights abuses that occurred between 1980 and 2000. The information gleaned from these investigations will be used to pursue the prosecution of human rights violators under Peruvian criminal law and, if necessary, in international forums. Peruvian NGO’s, including Paz y Esperanza, will play a key role in ensuring that these prosecutions are carried forward. Paz y Esperanza’s Ayacucho office has committed itself to help in the prosecution of 7 emblematic cases. The TRC has referred three of these cases to Paz y Esperanza (Callqui, Totos, Quispillacta) and one is before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Meneses), another is a new case that had not yet been investigated (the disappearance and subsequent murders of two children in 1984).
With respect to the Callqui, Toto, Quispillacta and two murdered children cases I helped to provide legal information to the victims’ family members, interviewed family members and witnesses about the events, explained the TRC’s reparation’s process to the family members, helped to gather supporting documentation regarding the crimes, and synthesized the evidence and information gathered to date.
I was an observer for a Human Rights Monitoring Team sponsored by Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and hosted by Paz y Esperanza in Peru (see below). As an observer, I accompanied another team member and Paz y Esperanza staff to the exhumation site of a massacre of 67 men, women and children that happened in 1984 at the hands of Shining Path. We observed the exhumation of a family of three, a father, mother and small child.
(3) Human Rights Course
I taught an 11-hour course on the inter-American human rights system to 14 Peruvian law students, paralegals and attorneys in Ayacucho. The course covered topics on filing petitions in the inter-American system, exhaustion of domestic remedies, state responsibility, provisional measures, and friendly settlements.
I received training and helped to provide workshops on reparations to Quechua-speaking victims of the political violence between 1980 and 2000 who live in rural areas in Ayacucho. Part of the TRC’s mandate is to recommend a reparations program to the Peruvian government for the victims of political violence. In order to draft a program, the TRC decided to solicit recommendations from the victims themselves. As such, it enlisted the help of NGO’s to conduct workshops on reparations in places where the majority of victims reside. Paz y Esperanza conducted several of these workshops nation-wide. It conducted three in Ayacucho. I participated in one of these workshops at which 53 persons participated. I facilitated a smaller break-out group of about 15 people, made up of primarily Quechua-speaking widows of the violence. A Quechua-speaking interpreter helped me with translation. The recommendations of these reparations groups were compiled and presented to the TRC at a national conference held in Ayacucho in November 2002.
(1) Adopting a curriculum and carrying out a course in the inter-American system in human rights in Spanish
Students, advocates and lawyers in Peru thirst for opportunities to receive training and education. There are few, if any legal courses on the inter-American system. The course helped to form a foundation for law students and other advocates to volunteer with Paz y Esperanza as it considers bringing cases in the inter-American system.
I was able to progress in the investigation regarding several cases that will help Paz y Esperanza as it assists in the prosecution of the perpetrators in those cases. I located and interviewed witnesses and family members, and compiled important information. Further, the human rights course that I am currently teaching at Hamline University School of Law is using the information on the Callqui case to draft a petition to present to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and a claim in U.S. District Court on the Alien Torts Liability Act.
(3) Murdered Children Case
In the case of the two murdered children I managed to locate the mother of the two children from a newspaper article published in 1984. From other leads I was able to identify, locate and interview witnesses and persons who knew of what had happened in 1984. I also worked with the local prosecutor to discuss opening an official investigation into the case.
(4) Building Capacity
I had the to opportunity to help a relatively new office staff build its capacity and plan for future work. The Ayacucho PyE office opened in April of last year. The staff is small and new. I learned a lot about directing staff from the director and working with Quechua-speaking persons. However, I believe I was also able to contribute to the office and its staff in terms of how to do legal work and by helping to train (a little) Quechua-speaking advocates on how to function as interpreters and paralegals in developing a legal case. I also participated in the office’s strategic planning for the coming year.
I would say the biggest challenge, or difficulty, was having to leave my work. I really enjoyed the work I did. I felt very fulfilled as a person and professional. So, it was hard to leave after only three months in Ayacucho.
A second challenge is common to many non-profits–the lack of resources. There is a tremendous need for the type of services that PyE provide in Ayacucho. But, PyE does not have enough personnel or resources to meet the demand. For example, PyE works with a primarily rural population that live in the highlands, are Quechua-speaking and were the primary targets of violence over the last 20 years. PyE needs more personnel who speak Quechua, are trained in treating victims of trauma, and with legal experience to help in the prosecution of human rights abuses. Further, PyE needs more money to travel to the places where clients live, which is anywhere from two to 10 hours away over rough, unpaved roads in very high altitude.
A third challenge was the lack of technology available to do our work. The PyE office has a limited number of computers, most of which are obsolete. I left the laptop that I purchased with the Ayacucho office. We also had limited printing capability, so I purchased a small printer to help me do my legal work. Internet access is also limited, as there is one phone line into the office, and the office is charged for each phone call it makes, including those to access the internet. Local internet cafe’s have slow speed computers. So, maintaining communication with folks in the U.S. was frustrating.
A fourth challenge transcends most spheres in any multilingual context: the challenge of working in more than one language. I am bilingual in Spanish and English. However, my work in Peru involved working with Quechua-speaking persons, many of whom are monolingual. Thus, we had to work through interpreters and rely on the information transmitted by the interpreter. Given that I have experience in translating, especially in the legal context, I am fairly particular about how translation should be done, and that it be accurate. Since I was working with untrained interpreters, I sometimes became frustrated. But this never really became a problem.
I attended two conferences: (1) Taller Juridico Regional: Centro-Oriente (Regional Legal Workshop), in Lima, Peru from September 27 to 29, 2002. This is a yearly conference sponsored CEAS (the Comision Episcopal de Accion Social); and, (2) The National Conference on Reparations from November 6 to 9, 2002, sponsored by Paz y Esperanza, CEAS, the Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos and endorsed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Other projects/works started or completed:
As part of my stay in Peru, I also helped to organize and participated in a human rights monitoring trip by 10 attorneys. The trip was sponsored by Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights. Paz y Esperanza hosted the monitoring team in Peru. Its purpose was to observe the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) and to write a report based on its observations. I continue to work with the group. Two reports are being written. The first report will be a smaller report that will outline recommendations for the TRC. The groups anticipates this report will be finished in April. The second will be a more comprehensive report published some time this summer.
A particular highlight was that as a staff, we studied Quechua. We initially had a one-hour class on a daily basis for several weeks. After that, it became harder to coordinate schedules because of the different activities with which the staff was involved. I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little of another language. It also helped to develop a repoire with the persons with whom we were working, as most of them are Quechua-speaking.
Peru has a very well-organized, committed and tireless human rights community that has been advocating for human rights for over 20 years. Paz y Esperanza is but one of sixty or so NGO’s that form the National Coordinator of Human Rights, a national coalition that coordinates and advocates for a national human rights agenda and provides a clearinghouse for human rights groups. Upon my return to Minnesota, I was immediately thrown back into the furor of going to war, and those struggling to maintain peace. I say this because working in human rights seems almost “easier” in the Peruvian context where civil society has created a strong network of like-minded promoters of human rights that support one another and are not surprised by challenges. Whereas in the U.S., as a society we seem to be thrown for a loop when faced with similar challenges to civil rights and maintaining peace. We do not have a ready-made system to rely on for accurate information and mutual support in times such as these. Further, we do not expect challenges to and abuses of our civil rights, so we are unprepared to deal with them when they happen. Of course, comparing these two nations may be unfair given their many differences in terms of size, history, culture, politics, economies, etc. But I would say that the U.S. could learn a lot from the Peruvian experiences–especially in a prophetic sense. Let us learn how to avoid abusing people’s civil rights so that we will not be faced with rectifying those abuses in the future. I would also have to say that doing human rights work in Peru is much more exhilarating and energizing than in the U.S. This realization is new to me, but does not surprise me.
As a result of my stay in Peru and work with Paz y Esperanza I have renewed energy to work in human rights, and new ideas to apply in that work. My direct supervisor in Ayacucho, German Vargas, especially had an impact on me. German has been “doing” human rights work for almost 20 years. He incorporates his work into his daily life. His wife works with him in the office, located two floors above his own home in a shabby apartment building in Ayacucho. For German, the office staff is his family, and he takes care of everyone with the love of a brother, father and mentor. He believes in the potential of every human being, regardless of circumstances and background. This belief is reflected in how he respectfully and deferentially treats clients, staff and his own family. He is especially skilled at building a team and coalitions. This probably explains his fairly quick success at establishing institutional and personal relationships with local Ayacuchan NGO’s, victims groups and their members, and local officials since the office was established in April of last year. I learned a lot about management and forming coalitions under German’s mentorship.
Already I have had the opportunity to bring back what I learned to Minnesota. First, as a continuation of my work in Peru with Paz y Esperanza, I am working as a board member for its sister organization in Minnesota, Peace and Hope Partnership International. Peace and Hope helps to support the work of Paz y Esperanza and other like-minded faith-based organizations in Latin America by providing financial, emotional and spiritual support, opportunities for exchanges between persons in the U.S and Latin America to sister programs in Latin America, and disseminating in the U.S. Latin American Christian literature on the churches’ social responsibility toward justice and the poor.
Second, I teach a law school course on the inter-American system on human rights. I am currently teaching this course at Hamline’s law school. I revised the class content based on my experience teaching the course in Peru. I am also using one of the cases that I worked on in Peru as the basis for the classes’ final work product. The class is “representing” the family members of the victims in this case in bringing a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and a claim in U.S. District Court under the Alien Torts Liability Act against the known perpetrator of the murders who is believed to live in the U.S. (Please keep this information as confidential). This method of teaching and learning seems to be particularly effective in motivating the students. They are excited about working on an actual, and not a hypothetical, case.
Third, as a member of the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights monitoring team, I am assisting with the preparation of two reports that will be presented to the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other official bodies in the U.S. and internationally. The team has also conducted several public presentations on the monitoring trip to Peru. Much to my surprise, MAHR will be awarding me one of its volunteer awards in June for my help in organizing the team’s trip to Peru. This is a wonderful and humbling honor.
A quote that sums up my whole purpose in life, and which was inscribed on my law school graduation announcement, is from the Bible. It is God’s call to his people that we: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another...do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor...in [our] hearts do not think evil of each other.” (Zechariah 7:9-10). While I often do not meet this standard, it is one to which I strive. My experience in Peru provided me an opportunity to meet and work with others who live by the same standard and belief. It provided me with an opportunity to draw closer to God’s call for my life. It provided me with an opportunity to carry out God’s call. Thank you.
Full Name of Organization: Asociaciَn Paz y Esperanza
Abbreviation and initials commonly used: PyE; Paz y Esperanza
Organizational Address: Hermilio Valdizan 681, Jesus Maria, Lima, Peru
Telephone number: (011) (511) 261 1051
Fax number: same as above
Email address: aspazes@ec_red.com
Names of Executive Director and Senior Staff:
Dr. Alfonso Wieland, attorney and Executive Director
Dr. German Vargas Farias, attorney and Director of the Ayacucho Office
Dr. Jose Regalado, attorney and Director of the Moyobamba Office
Dr. Jose Vinces, attorney and Director of the Huanuco Office
Dr. Ruth Cespedes, psychologist and Director of the Lima Office
Number of Employed Staff: 28 full-time employees
Number of Volunteers: approximately 40
Objectives of the Organization:
The Objectives of Paz y Esperanza are:
(1.) The Development of Institutional Services
PyE strives to consolidate and systematize a reflection on, and a practice of sexual health, individual and social rights defense, domestic violence, prisons’ pastoral care, conciliation and conflict transformation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s process; and social action by church congregations and leaders, especially in response to the needs of the poor.
(2.) The Development of International Outreach and Networks
PyE actively cooperates in the Andean and Central American region in developing programs and projects that are consistent with the vision and mission, as well as in actively participating in the formation, promotion and consolidation of regional and world networks that promote justice and development.
(3.) The Improvement of the Churches’ Impact
PyE is a source of reference and referral for the national Evangelical Christian community regarding holistic mission and church service. It also contributes to the national and Latin American sphere in the formation of emerging Christian leadership committed to holistic mission, particularly service through the church.
(4.) The Achievement of Organizational Development and Excellency
PyE strives to be a well-planned, integrated, decentralized, efficient and effective organization in its process and management and one that is willing to accept changes that make good use of its learning capabilities; that strengthens it financially; and that has a team that is specialized, up-to-date, competent, adequately compensated, committed to the institutional vision, and that shows servant leadership characteristics.
Paz y Esperanza has provided consultation for several like-minded, faith-based NGO’s in Latin America including, Abogados Betesda in Barranquilla, Colombia, Arboles de Justicia in San Salvador, El Salvador, Justicia y Vida in Bogota, Colombia, and two organizations in Bolivia. It’s Executive Director is a member of the board of Peace and Hope Partnership International, a sister non-profit incorporated in Minnesota. PyE is also a member of several international social justice and development networks, including the Micah Network of which the Executive Director is own its board.
Date of Information: March 2003
Information Supplied by: Colleen Beebe
Paz y Esperanza
Colleen Beebe - March 2003
Human Rights Center
Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellowship
1. Agency Placement: Paz y Esperanza, Lima, Peru
a) Did you request assistance for the agency to find housing? Yes
If yes, what was the response you received from the agency?
The agency was very responsive. Agency personnel arranged for temporary housing in Lima for the first week while I received orientation at the main office. In Lima, I stayed at the house of one of the agency’s board members. Agency staff reserved a room for me at a local hotel where I would live for the three months that I was in Ayacucho, the fellowship site. Agency staff also helped with hotel arrangements for the Peru Monitoring team that went to observe the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I was a member of that team.
If no, how did you find housing?
b) When did you meet with the person who was responsible for supervising you?
I had met German Vargas, my supervisor, at two previous conferences that I attended in 2000 (Ecuador) and in 2001 (Peru). German met us at the bus station the day I arrived in Ayacucho to begin my fellowship.
c) Did you have adequate supervision?
Yes. The Ayacucho office is small. Staff work closely together. German, my supervisor was regularly available to ask questions and ask for guidance. German also regularly would check in with me to see if I was doing OK, and if I needed anything.
d) What was the relationship between employees and volunteers?
Paz y Esperanza has two types of volunteers. Those that function as volunteer staff and those that have less responsibility within the organization. Volunteer staff are incorporated into the overall work of the office, attend meetings, provide input and help in the decision-making. Other staff play a smaller role in these areas, but are invited to have input about the projects on which they work. Paz y Esperanza staff provide support to the volunteers and are always available for consultation, etc.
2. Would you recommend that another person do a fellowship at the agency? Why or why not?
If not, what would have to change?
Yes. I would strongly recommend placement at this organization. The organization is very well run. The organization puts a lot of thought in its planning of projects and invites staff to participate in the planning process. Agency staff are very welcoming to volunteers, and one is made to feel a part of the Paz y Esperanza “family.” The organization operates on the premise that everyone has talents and gifts and staff and volunteers should be able to use their talents and gifts to the fullest.
3. Did you feel safe in the location of your placement? Why or why not? What, if any, steps did you take as precautions?
Yes. I felt safe, but there are concerns for the future that as the organization pursues criminal prosecution of human rights violators on a national and international level there will be a need for enhanced safety precautions for staff. Also, in 2000 Paz y Esperanza’s office in Lima was the subject of a break-in which resulted in the office guard being beaten up and its computer files being stolen.
4. What, if anything, would you suggest adding to the training sessions for future fellows?
5. Would you recommend that another fellow go to the country and/or area where you were?
Yes. Peru is a wonderful place to do human rights work. It has a sophisticated network of well-established and respected human rights organizations (over 60). Thus, despite the challenges, it is very rewarding because you feel as if you are part of a team and national movement promoting human rights.