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1999 NCC News Archives

Top NCC Delegation Visit Sept. 22-28 To Support Search For Truth About "Disappeared" In Chile, Uruguay and Argentina 

 Sept. 14, 1999, NEW YORK CITY – Some 25 years after nearly 25,000 people were "disappeared" by repressive regimes in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, their families still ache to know what happened to their loved ones. These families’ human right remain unresolved, to find their dead and to give them a proper burial, or in some cases to find those "disappeared" who are still alive today – babies taken from their imprisoned parents and put up for adoption..

September 22-28, a top-level delegation from the (U.S.) National Council of Churches (NCC) will travel to those three countries to support the families, human rights organizations and churches struggling together to find the truth and to encourage the political will to resolve this outstanding human and ethical problem.

"During the repression, the National Council of Churches participated in supporting human rights, meeting refugees’ needs, helping people who needed to leave their countries and intervening in many other ways," said the delegation’s leader, the Rev. Dr. Joan B. Campbell, NCC General Secretary. "Our support was – and remains – particularly important, given that the U.S. government supported those dictatorships in the 1970s. We want to reiterate our unflagging support for the search for justice.

"Ever since Uruguay, Chile and Argentina returned to normal life, we’ve supported the return of exiles and the search for the truth," she said. "But there is one point still not resolved by the three countries since their return to legality and that is the return of the bodies of the disappeared. For their families, wounds inflicted 25 years ago remain open."

The four NCC representatives will be accompanied by the President of the Latin American Council of Churches, Dr. Walter Altmann, a Lutheran who is Professor of Systematic Theology in the Theological Seminary in Sao Leopoldo, Brazil. Dr. Altmann’s participation signals "the strong support of this mission by the ecumenical movement in Latin America," Dr. Campbell said.

Presidential elections will take place in all three countries before year’s end, and the group’s itinerary – planned by churches and human rights groups in the host countries -- includes meetings with the leading candidates.

"The churches in the three countries asked us to meet with the political candidates as those who will have in their hands the power to resolve the ethical and human rights problem of the disappearances," said the Rev. Oscar Bolioli, Director of the NCC’s Latin America and the Caribbean Office, a delegation member.

"We want to give new impulse to the search for the disappeared," he said, "to mobilize the political will in Uruguay, with 60 ‘disappeared;’ sustain the very advanced process in Argentina, with 20,000 ‘disappeared,’ and support the process in Chile, with 4,000 ‘disappeared.’ We are supporting the right of those families to bury their relatives and to know what happened and why."

Besides Drs. Campbell and Altmann and the Rev. Bolioli, delegation members are:

A detailed itinerary is available upon request for the delegation’s more than 30 appointments in Uruguay Sept. 22-23, Argentina Sept. 24-26 and Chile Sept. 27-28.

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