'Just our presence was our work'
By Jim McIlroy
BRISBANE — Peace Brigades International "stands between conflicts. We provide people to help people under threat because of their human rights activities" in many countries divided by civil wars, invasions and dictatorships, Helen Stevenson, a PBI representative newly returned from Sri Lanka, told a meeting here on November 9.
"Just our presence was our work", she said.
PBI was invited into Sri Lanka by human rights lawyers because six colleagues had disappeared in the fight between the government and the Tamil freedom fighters.
"We worked with families of the disappeared. Now they are feeling safer because of our presence."
PBI played an important role in Central America, especially Guatemala, PBI's longest running operation. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu credits PBI with her survival in Guatemala, because of their work in escorting her around under threat of the regime's death squads.
"If there's a threatening situation we can't handle, we send a message to our international coordinators, and protest faxes come in from all over the world", Stevenson said.
She urged people to join the Emergency Response Network to help provide this backup, to assist with much-needed funding or to volunteer to become a PBI worker.
To contact PBI in Queensland, write to PBI, 1/6 Macadamia St, Wynnum West 4178, or phone Michael Salla (07) 408 9594 or Karl Erik Paasonen (07) 844 8402.