In August of 2008, a BPFNA Friendship Tour to Nicaragua visited what is known as the "Nemagon Camp" – a collection of meager tents created from wooden poles and sheets of black plastic. These tents house victims of the pesticide Nemagon. Banned in the US as a clear human toxin, this chemical was used extensively throughout Central America, especially on banana plantations. Its affects are devastating to the workers who used it and to their families – effects include death (over 2000 people have died due to its direct effects), sterility, severe internal and external damage, and high rates of birth defects among the children of the workers. The US-based transnational companies responsible have denied almost all responsibility and have acted minimally to make things right. The workers are asking for specialized health care, small monthly pensions, and a guarantee that Nemagon never be used again. [See reports from the Friendship Tour
for greater details]
When our BPFNA group met with the farm workers, they asked our help in sharing their plight and their fight for justice. One member of that Friendship Tour, Deidre Druk, has led the BPFNA ever since in advocating for these courageous and suffering people.
This year, thanks to the great leadership of Deidre and her church, University Baptist in Minneapolis, MN, we invite our churches and members to make this advocacy action part of your observance of Lent. Deidre has drafted sample advocacy letters to a variety of political leaders as well as to the leaders of the fruit and chemical companies responsible for the production and use of Nemagon.
You are invited to visit www.bpfna.org/nemagon
and read the sample letters on the BPFNA web site, use them as they are or put them in your own words if you prefer, put them on your own stationary, and mail them to the addresses listed. You can write just one letter, one letter each of the weeks of Lent, or even write to each company and leader listed.
Our members and churches outside of the US may wish to focus their efforts on the companies themselves. Those inside the US are urged to write to both the companies and US government officials. (If you wish to write your US Senators, you can find names and addresses at www.senate.gov
You can grab attention by using yellow paper and envelopes (Since Nemagon was used most often in the banana fields, it is most associated with that particular fruit). If you are working with your Sunday School class, church or other group, you can generate some energy by tracking your progress. (University Baptist is making a banana chart and inviting each member who writes 10 letters to add a banana with his/her name.) You may want to plan letter-writing sessions after worship or as a part of other church gatherings.
If you take part in this justice-seeking Lenten practice, please let us know by dropping us an email with the subject line Lenten Advocacy to firstname.lastname@example.org