Dear Friend of IRTF:
My name is Charlie Löwisch, and I am a full-time volunteerat IRTF with the German program Action ReconciliationService for Peace (ARSP). At IRTF, my involvement ismostly concentrated on the issues of fair trade, migrant justice, and environmental human rights, and I have recently startedwriting a monthly migrant justice newsletter. I came to Cleveland fromBerlin, Germany, in January 2022, after nearly a year of waiting for my visato be approved because of COVID travel restrictions. I applied to volunteer with ARSP back in 2020 because I was graduating in 2021 and I wanted tospend some time abroad, doing hands-on political work and experiencinglife in a new community, instead of jumping straight into university.
I grew up in a family that is very involved in politics. I remember many evenings in my childhood spent with babysitterswhile my parents were participating in political action groups. Later,my mother took a job directing a company that is importing fair trade coffee from Central American countries like Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, and I was blessed with many interesting conversations about labor rights and other political issues at thedinner table
. I later engaged in a European green-leftist political youthparty, where my --previously mainly theoretical -- interest in politics grewinto a desire to take action and reach out to people as well as stand insolidarity with those whose voices are suppressed.
But never in my experience with political work have I witnessed such animmense feeling of solidarity and been able to realize what solidarity andtogetherness can do in social movements than when I started at theInterReligious Task Force here in Cleveland.
The way IRTF organizes its social and political activism is not solelybased on finding solutions for social issues and seeking justice forthe many violations of human, environmental, Indigenous, and many other rights that we have seen in Central America over so many years. Working with IRTF also means standing in solidarity with the people whosevoices have been silenced by governments and military forces and showingsupport of their local movements, as well as demanding a change that willnot only resolve one conflict but promote long-term peace and equality.During the past two years, being a grassroots, non-profit social justiceorganization has not been easy. The pandemic has in so many ways sloweddown and hindered the way IRTF used to organize and promote change.Most meetings and seminars have been moved to online. For a long time, delegations to Central American countries or other U.S. cities to unite withsimilar political groups and movements have been impossible or posed a dilemma of whether it is more important to take action to support the vulnerable in our society or to protect each other's health. And so far, the pandemic has not come to an end. But we must not let the pandemic stop us in our striving to demand social justice!
Like flowers, we must grow. And like flowers, even though there are some cold, hard months, we will rise again each year, and bring new strength to the world and the movements we take part in, to work together towards a more beautiful, united world.
People in Central America have been hit by this health crisis in ways that gobeyond mandates to wear masks in stores.
They have been exploited, their rights have been stolen and compromised. And since March of 2020,many of those who fled their homes in countries of armed conflict and politicaldistress to seek safety in the US have been apprehended at the southern border and pushed back on grounds of Title 42, a public healthregulation that is filled with racism and xenophobia. Or they are put inovercrowded detention facilities for unknown amounts of time, wheresocial distancing and hygiene practices are near impossible and COVID outbreaks are not the exception. Those reasons are part of why IRTF, together with other local movements, organized a protest inCleveland on March 3 as part of the Community Not Cages National Day of Action. And even though we were few in number, we showed our solidarity and demanded that the administration stop funding Immigrationsand Customs Enforcement (ICE) and shut down detention centers, and toreform the US immigration system to ensure a fair and humane process for allpeople seeking asylum.
In these times of crisis, warfare and polarization, the work of collective humanrights organizations like IRTF has become even more important to advocateand organize for the rights of oppressed communities in Central America andColombia and all around the world. We must keep joining our hands insolidarity and fighting for justice and equality until all demands forhuman dignity are met.
IRTF has a mission to meet people where they are (but not let them staythere—constantly moving the arc of the moral universe toward justice) andbuild community and solidarity with people working towards liberation andjustice across nations. We cannot do this work without you.
Please consider making a gift to IRTF today so we can continue adding strength to this mission
Charlie Löwisch, volunteer
Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP)
Please consider making your donation today!
Click the DONATE button on our website or mail your tax-deductive contribution to: IRTF, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
IRTF Board of Trustees:
Alisha Bagley (Treasurer), Rachel Rosen DeGolia, Rev Ellen Huffman, Yolanda King(Co-Chair), Kai Kyles, Sr. Diane Pinchot (Co-Chair), Melaak Rashid, Akshai Singh, Lisa Splawisnki (Secretary)