Witness in Nicaragua

By Christensen, Russ | Monthly Review, May 1984 | Go to article overview

Witness in Nicaragua


Christensen, Russ, Monthly Review


When I heard recently that an ecumenical grouping of Christians wanted me, a Marxist, to join them as part of their first team going to live in Jalapa in Nicaragua on the Honduran border. I was told to keep it as secret as possible for the moment. So I flew directly from Bangor, Maine, to Santa Cruz, California. That was September 20, 1983, and thus began a strange journey which I am still on.

Today, I am sitting in the Casa Cural up in Jalapa, while the other members of this first contingent of our community are out in the fields working in a brigade. I am here because for the last three days I have had a bad case of diarrhea, and today I have a splitting headache and am weak. We call ourselves Witness for Peace, and we have the backing of Christians from most of the major Protestant denominations and the Catholic church.

The other two members of this team are Daniel Anderson from Brooking South Dakota (28, and of Lutheran background) and Rose Dalle Tezze, a Lady of Mercy sister from Pittsburgh.

It is a strange thing about identity--I have not throught of myself much as a Christian in the last 30 years. Then five years ago I met Sheila and John Collins. John who is co-chair of Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC) and Sheila had a gentle but constant way of including me in their faith--the faith in which I was brought up, the Methodist church. Yet until this trip I have not actively used the term "Christian" to describe myself. I have felt it very important in my life to actively embrace the term "Marxist" to describe myself--that was because so many vilify this great man and the scholarship he brought to our lives. The least I could do was not deny him--even if I could never approach his intellect. Then I thought it important to take on the task everyone thought impossible--to run for office openly as a Marxist.

In my long search for my meaning, my identity, one of the things I have learned about myself is that I am full of what the New Testament describes as Righteousness--a sense of the world being full of injustice. It also has a tendency to fill me with anger, and many times I have fought back in my society out of anger. I lose more than I gain when I go with anger--intellectually I know that. Just like I know that humanity has reached a stage in our development where military fighting is obsolete, that people cannot continue to wage war as a way of resolving our differences. The weapons we now possess on many sides have made this form of confrontation obsolete. If the United States, which made the first atomic bomb, ever gets around to using it again--and if any country uses it it will be our country, I am sure--then we will be back in the Stone Age, or humanity will not survive. So I must change also--if I want others to change. I have to learn to go to others that I need to confront, not full of anger but with new tools. …

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