Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo began their protests on April 30, 1977 in the main plaza (Plaza de Mayo) in front of the president’s house in Buenos Aries, the capital of Argentina. It was the beginning of the “Dirty War” in Argentina: a conflict between the rightist government and the leftist “subversives” who were routinely rounded up and killed or imprisoned by the government. These people were “disappeared” and they were referred to as “los desaparecidos” or the disappeared ones. The Mothers’ protests confounded the military government and eventually contributed to the end of the violent conflict in 1983.
Beginning in April 1977 with 14 women, the weekly protests demanded a simple thing from the government: information. These nonviolent demonstrations were about information about their children. They would chant, “We want our children; we want them to tell us where they are.” The Mothers often carried pictures of their missing children and wore white headscarves as a symbol of peace. This request was radical because the government forbade anyone talking about the subversives and did not tolerate dissent of any kind.
“We realize that to demand the fulfillment of human rights is a revolutionary act, that to question the government about bringing our children back alive was a revolutionary act. We are fighting for liberation, to live in freedom, and that is a revolutionary act… To transform a system is always revolutionary.” -Madres of the Plaza de Mayo
The women gathering to protest drew international attention to Argentina’s internal conflict. hey published an advertisement in the newspaper listing the names of their children who had disappeared. As their protests grew, the government attempted to silence their movement by disappearing some of their founding members. But this did not stop the Mothers’ cries for information and justice. The 1978 World Cup was held in Argentina and the Mothers used this opportunity to focus international attention on their missing children. The military gave up their power in 1983 and Argentina began to try and recover from their Dirty War.
“Becoming aware of all the terrible things the young people were enduring made us see the ferociousness of the enemy clearly. The ferocity of the enemy gives us the strength to face him. I mean, how are you going to allow him to go on?”
After the war ended, the Mothers fought to learn what happened to their children and for those responsible to be held accountable. They used DNA evidence to identify bodies in mass unmarked graves. Some of the military officials who were responsible for the disappearances were convicted and sent to jail. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo were a group of women whose daughters gave birth while in prison and their grandchildren were given to high-ranking government officials. These Grandmothers were able to find over 200 of their grandchildren and be reunited with them.
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo remain a strong and successful example of nonviolent demonstration in the face of a violent government. A group of Mothers continue to march every Thursday at 3:30 in the afternoon.
“One of the things that I simply will not do now is shut up. The women of my generation in Latin America have been taught that the man is always in charge and the woman is silent even in the face of injustice…Now I know that we have to speak out about the injustices publicly. If not, we are accomplices. I am going to denounce them publicly without fear. This is what I learned.” -María del Rosario de Cerruti