The Role of the Church in International Peacebuilding: Lessons from the US-Central America Solidarity Movement
Oppressed groups struggling for peace, justice and economic reform are increasingly appealing to the international community for support and assistance. Yet these groups face numerous challenges as they try to capture the attention and commitment of potentially sympathetic audiences. Given the success of the United States-Central America peace movement of the 1980s, this article focuses on the methods used by solidarity organisers to persuade members of US faith communities to participate in various transnational citizen peacemaking campaigns. These initiatives were designed to end the region’s civil wars and to promote opportunities for the poor of Central America to reconstruct their socioeconomic and political systems without foreign interference. Based on archival research and in-depth interviews with solidarity activists and organisers, this article examines how the church – as an established, respected transnational institution – played a critical part in this movement. Additional attention is given to the role of missionaries, who served as a link between faith communities in the United States and Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. The article concludes with several lessons that international peace and justice movements can learn from the successes and failures of this case.