Elaine Bishop recalls visit to El Salvador with Peace Brigades International

Published by Brent Patterson on

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In this video (starting at the 33:37 mark), Elaine Bishop, a former Coordinator of the Canadian Friends Service Committee, notes:

“I had an amazing experience going on to El Salvador with Peace Brigades International and Alaine Hawkins. We visited some of the people being accompanied by Peace Brigades International volunteers.

The story that we were told by the man who was being accompanied. He told us about a death threat that he received. We said: ‘What did you do?’ He said: ‘Oh I just ignored it. They said they would kill me within two days, but the postmark was six days ago.’”

As noted on the PBI website:

“In 1987, at the invitation of Lutheran Bishop Medardo Gomez, PBI started working in El Salvador. Most of the work consisted of providing international protective accompaniment to threatened popular organizations and regular visits to villages of returned refugees.

Groups with whom we worked included COMADRES (Committee of Mothers and Relatives of the Disappeared), UNTS and FENASTRAS (trade unions), CRIPDES (Christian Committee for Internal Refugees), and AMS (Women’s organisation).

After the signing of the peace accords in 1992, the Project was closed as there was no longer a need for our work.”

Elaine also shared the photo above and noted: “This is a photo of Alaine leading a peace training program in Kingston, Ontario.”

Alaine was a founder and active member of Peace Brigades International-Canada, the first PBI country group (incorporated in January 1984).

From 1986 to 1991, Alaine was the Toronto-based coordinator of PBI’s Central American Project. Joan Edenburg comments in the book Making Space for Peace: “During these tense and difficult years in Central America, Alaine made a major contribution in establishing PBI as a respected organisation in the region.”

In 1988, Alaine explained to Toronto’s NOW Magazine our work: “Peace Brigades supports the political space in which people work for social change in a non-violent way. Our people are a physical presence. If anything happens to the people they are escorting, we are able to get the word out immediately.”

Alaine was also crucial in the formation of PBI’s Sri Lanka Project in 1989 (which was based in Halifax, England) and the North America Project in 1992 (based in Toronto).

Alaine passed away on April 3, 1997, at 62 years of age from cancer.

Related reading:

Remembering Alaine Hawkins

The key role played by Quakers in the formation of Peace Brigades International 40 years ago

Barbara MacQuarrie and the early days of PBI in Guatemala and El Salvador

The story of Karen Ridd, a PBI volunteer in El Salvador

PBI volunteers present when Salvadoran police raided the CRIPDES office in 1989


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