[They] tied the trials and tribulations of individuals to the trials and tribulations of the society within which they were embedded (Kellerman, 2010, 157).
My personal experiences – my trials and tribulations – speak to a larger collective experience of suffering and struggle. In December 2007, as part of a United Methodist women’s spiritual leadership exchange, I traveled to El Salvador and Honduras. Afterward, I wrote and published an essay about one day on that journey.
The day began at our Five Star Princess Hotel. As we gathered to load into the van, I watched mostly men (and very few women) in very expensive tailored dark suits, starched white shirts, and neckties as they gathered in the lobby of the hotel’s convention hall. It was a meeting of the World Bank and IMF with El Salvadoran elected officials. Within thirty minutes of leaving the convention center, our women’s leadership group was at the site where Arch Bishop Oscar Romero (the Pastor of the impoverished landless peasants) was murdered in 1980. The murder of Romero created a huge uprising and a full scale civil war that lasted for twelve years.
The experience of being confronted with the impact of colonization and globalization on the poor people of Latin America left an indelible mark on my soul. I was able to identify the shared challenges of rural communities in Montana (negatively impacted by multi-national corporations) and Latin America.
Then in January 2008, I participated in another faculty and student leadership exchange with religious leaders in Uganda and Rwanda. Again, I saw first hand evidence that Christian missionaries were complicit in creating violence between African tribes. The process of colonization included creating false racial hierarchies — as in the Hutus and Tutsis. The Colonizers found it necessary to rank the indigenous people into hierarchies. They used these imposed rankings or hierarchies so that an elite minority group of privileged Africans were oppressing other Africans. In a sense, they replicated their European class system.
I also saw the effects of crop ‘mono-cultures’ designed to efficiently replace native subsistence crops with profitable crops like coffee and sugar. Tribal people were forced off their land, and the land is now controlled by huge multi-national agricultural conglomerates. Starving people were surrounded by abundant fertile land that produced sugar and coffee for wealthy foreigners. Montana has also experienced a decline in the number of family owned and operated farms, with many of the Federal farm subsidies going to the multi-national agricultural corporations.
I discovered the need for more effective leadership was global, not just a personal experience.