April 07

 

April 2007

Dear Friend,

On most mornings I drive a few miles to the small historic town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, for a slow jog on the paths alongside the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. It's a beautiful and peaceful setting occasionally interrupted by the sound of freight trains crossing the bridge from West Virginia to Maryland. Trains bring out the boy in me. I love their sound and power. I wonder where they've been and where they're going. I've always preferred traveling by train to any other means of travel.

Recently, after a morning jog, I saw a sign in a shop window in Harpers Ferry :

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Like many law students in the turbulent 1960s, I went to law school to change the world. But after graduating and joining a fine Los Angeles law firm in 1969, my idealism took a back seat. Realism set in. Billable hours serving blue chip corporate clients became the all-important standard for the Partner Track. Even though I still wanted to change the world, I had clients to serve in order to become partner.

WHO IS YOUR CLIENT? On the first Tuesday of May, 1972, my perspective changed. While standing on the corner of 6th and Hope Street at noontime contemplating leaving the practice of law and going to seminary in order to "be used by God," I had the Gentle Whisper moment of my life. The whisper was almost audible: "Sam, I'm the Client! Treat me as your client, and you'll be amazed where I will take you." I realized that the central issue is not where you work, but Whom you see as your ultimate employer.

Until that moment, my clients had been Ford, American Airlines, Sperry Univac, AIG and other Fortune 500 companies. But that day I learned they were only the means to the end. Jesus Christ was to be The Client. As the Apostle Paul, a disbarred lawyer, wrote, "whether you eat or drink [or practice law or sell shoes], do all to the glory of God." I went back to my office with a new perspective on changing the world. First, I had to change my perspective on work. The goal was to please The Client while doing a good job for those who paid the bills.

Five years later, I tried wearing two hats. I was a partner doing antitrust law, as well as the executive pastor for the largest evangelical church in Los Angeles County . But changing the world had to wait. There was a lot of changing that needed to be done in me before I could change the world. Values, priorities and perspectives had to change.

In 1981, I joined Christian Legal Society to plant their flag in Washington, DC. Changing the law through the legal process came slowly. I discovered that the most effective change agents were often those who also understood who their Client was.

A decade later, on April 15, 1991, I resigned from CLS to serve The Client globally. The Advocates International journey was about to begin.

A ROLE MODEL: During my 26 years leading Christian lawyer groups in the US and globally, I have met hundreds of highly competent and committed servants of Christ within the legal profession. I can identify a handful of lawyers who have not only impacted their nation for Christ but their continent and the globe. Among them, one stands out: Peruvian Law Professor Vilma "Nina" Balmaceda. She is a change agent.

In 1993, at 24, Nina began teaching human rights and religious freedom law at Peru 's leading law schools. She also began mentoring law students. She was a Fulbright Scholar in 1995 and became a PhD candidate in International Political Science at the University of Notre Dame in 1998. Nina attended Advocates' Global Convocation in 2000 and returned to Lima to launch the Christian Legal Society of Peru with three colleagues. Two months later she accepted my challenge to organize the first regional conference for Latin American lawyers in Ica , Peru , in October 2001. She was elected the first President of Advocates Latin America (ALA) and served for two years.

Thanks to Nina's leadership, ALA is the first regional network to link all its nations. This year there will be 20 official national Christian lawyer groups compared to only a couple groups in 2000. ALA is the model network for our global mission. It is well-organized and efficient with five Permanent Committees: 1) Human Rights & Corruption; 2) Religious Freedom; 3) Peacemaking; 4) Family Issues and 5) Law Student Ministries.

In cooperation with Regent Law School in Virginia Beach and Handong Int'l Law School in South Korea (whose Dean, Lynn Buzzard, serves as Advocates' Board Chairman), Nina helped organize a Continuing Legal Education Program that has already held several seminars in Santo Domingo, DR, drawing in over 100 lawyers from Latin America.

OPEN DOORS: In 2003, Nina and her husband, Roberto, a youth pastor in Lima , plus their little son Roberto, Jr., moved to Nyack , New York , so that Roberto could attend seminary. Nina has served as our liaison to the Latin network since 2003. After Roberto receives his MDiv in May, they will move to South Bend , Indiana , so that Nina can finish her PhD next year. For a dynamic and enthusiastic evangelical lawyer and scholar like Nina, to have a PhD from one of America 's most respected Roman Catholic universities will open more doors to leadership and academia to serve The Client, Jesus Christ, worldwide.

Nina is a servant-leader who has paid a price for the changes she has had to make in order to be a change agent. Part of her legacy is seen in the enclosed Country-by-Country report. I thank God for Nina and others like her who serve The Client, while...

Living in His-Story,

Sam Ericsson
Founder & President

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Advocates Latin America (ALA)
Country-by-Country Report
Compiled by Professor Vilma "Nina" Balmaceda
Facilitator for Advocates International and ALA

Founded in 2001, Advocates Latin America (referred to as "ALA" or "RLAAC") is the first regional network linking all 20 nations within its region. ALA has four Permanent Committees: 1) Human Rights & Corruption; 2) Religious Freedom; 3) Family Issues; and 4) Peacemaking. It plans to add a fifth Committee on Law Student Ministries in 2007.

1. ARGENTINA: The Argentine Association of Christian Lawyers (AAAC) is led by: Carlos Galvan, President, Luis Daglio, Vice President, Lidia Garcia Torralba, Director, Miguel Ekizián, Cristina Hofkamp, and Enrique Vetere. The main plenary sessions for the 2006 Argentine Association of Christian Lawyers' Annual National Congress were celebrated in one of the most important Law Schools in the country, the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) on August 12, 2006.

2.BOLIVIA: In Bolivia we have several groups, but there is no national organization yet. I think it would be very useful for me to visit them and call for a national meeting of Christian lawyers. This trip could be done in combination with a visit to Paraguay where our contacts are struggling trying to make their group grow. In the city of Sucre, Filder Carbajal has been involved for several years now in service to the indigenous communities. He and Justice Miguel Carrasco have a group of about 6 or 7 Christian lawyers that get together sometime during the year. Juanita Ambrosio in Oruro has a group of about 12 Christian lawyers who get together to do a prison ministry. They share the gospel with inmates and provide pro bono legal services. They also help them by providing some practical help for the inmates' basic needs.

3. BRAZIL: The Instituto dos Advogados Cristaos do Brasil is led by: David Teixeira de Azevedo, President, Gilberto Ribeiro dos Santos, Vice President, Nadir Chagas, Culture and Events, Sergio Presta, Treasurer, Flauzilino Araújo Santos, Secretary, Lílian Thomé, Public Relations, Élan Martins Queiroz, Ethics and Discipline, and Adriano Damásio, Legal Projects. Our Brazilian organization is actively involved in academic events promoting high standards of ethics among lawyers. They recently signed an agreement for cooperation with one of the most important Law Schools in the country. They also participate in radio and TV programs on different topics of interest. They have agreements of cooperation with the Brazilian Bible Society, UNESCO, and the Association of Christian Women of Brazil (Associação Crista Feminina do Brasil).

4. COLOMBIA: In Colombia we have two associations, each of them has roughly 25 members. David Perez, President, "Betesda" Association, Maggie Urueta, President, "Dialogar" Association, Roberto Sierra, Vice President, "Dialogar" Association, and Sonia Osorio, Human Rights Worker. Our colleagues in Colombia are completely dedicated to serve communities that have been displaced in the context of the political violent conflict that has affected Colombia in the last 50 years. They work in the area of human rights protection, children's rights, and the promotion of fair trade opportunities for poor peasants in the countryside. David has been involved in human rights education and led a campaign to help children get registered in the public records, helping them enjoy their legal right to have a name. In this campaign, David facilitated the work of 17 public agencies that in one day offered services to more than 800 people, helping them get their identity cards, vaccinations, etc. Our Colombian colleagues are also involved in the campaigns against child prostitution and domestic violence. They are working on the creation of a shelter that will be called " Esther Home", for women and child victims of domestic violence. RLAAC and these two Colombian organizations have submitted an Amicus Curiae brief before the Constitutional Tribunal of Colombia to oppose the legalization of abortion. This document was written by Nina Balmaceda, AI Liaison, and was signed by all RLAAC organizations, RLAAC Board members and the AI Coordinator for Latin America. The Colombian Constitutional Tribunal rejected the petition of legalization of abortion but accepted the legality of "therapeutic abortion."

5. CHILE: The leaders of the Christian Legal Society of Chile (Sociedad Juridica Cristiana de Chile) are: Raul Romero, President, Natalia Venegas, and Carlos Alberto Rabah. They are particularly involved in representing churches.

6. COSTA RICA: The Costa Rican Network of Christian Lawyers is led by: Dorca Enriquez, President, Ricardo Zuñiga, Sofia Zuñiga, and Reynaldo Matamoros. Our Costa Rican colleagues have been involved in actions to counteract the push for the legalization of abortion and stem cell research in Costa Rica . They are monitoring a case brought by pro-abortion and research organizations against the Costa Rican government before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

7. CUBA: The Christian Legal Fraternity of Cuba is led by: Rodolfo Juarez, President, Uxmal Livio Diaz, and Livian Gonzalez. Our Cuban colleagues are mostly involved in helping churches and Christian organizations comply with all the government's requirements. They also provide pro bono services for the poor and coordinate the import of Christian books that are donated to churches in Cuba from abroad.

8. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The leaders of the Dominican Network of Christian Lawyers are: Vitelio Mejia, President, Jose Alberto Ortiz, Executive Director, Moisés Almonte, Director, Braulio Portes, Honorary President, Oliver Carreño, Larisa Castillo, and Claudine Ortiz. Our colleagues have been involved in the organization of several events to raise awareness among lawyers about AI's ministry and legal ethics. They organized in January 2006 a course on "Faith and Law: A Biblical Perspective for the Legal Profession", which was taught by Lynn Buzzard (Handong U.), Natt Gant (Regent U.) and Eric Enlow (Handong U.) and had 30 lawyer participants. The Dominican Network held a course called "Biblical Principles of Mediation" in two workshops with Nina Balmaceda, attended by 45 lawyers and 35 law students. They hosted the VI CLAC in October 2006. The total number of participants was 171 plus 24 volunteers. The leaders of the Network have constant participation in radio and TV on issues related to the gay agenda and the liberalization of abortion. In the process of reforming the Criminal Code, the Dominican Congress on July 24th, 2006, decided NOT to legalize abortion. Though most members reside in the capital city of Santo Domingo, there are also groups in smaller cities such as Santiago de los Caballeros and Barahona.

9. ECUADOR: The leaders of the Ecuadorian Foundation of Christian Lawyers (FACE) are: Xavier Velez, President, Esplendida Navarrete, Jose Egas, and Maximo Jibaja. Our colleagues in Ecuador are involved in anticorruption efforts and promotion of ethics in the judicial system. They also have organized campaigns in defense of children's rights, especially of child laborers and street children. They will be hosting the VII Convention for Christian Lawyers (VII CLAC) in the city of Guayaquil in October 2007. FACE has a big group of members in Guayaquil and many other cities in the country; they are very active in evangelistic efforts. Jose Egas and Maximo Jibaja have a group of 10 lawyers in Quito , the Capital City .

10. EL SALVADOR: The Leaders of the Association ACAES are: Hugo Pineda, President, Silvia Martinez, Maria Siguenza, and Roberto Portillo. ACAES celebrated in March of this year a conference for lawyers and other professionals on issues of corruption. There were about 150 participants, including 80 lawyers. The group is also very active in evangelistic efforts.

11. GUATEMALA: The leaders of the Guatemalan Association of Christian Lawyers and Notaries are: Elizabeth de Larios, President, Rene Melgar, Vice President, Gladys Delgado, Lorenzo Hernandez, Gladys Alvarado, Pablo Villeda, and Neftali Aldana. Our Guatemalan group keeps having its "Breakfasts for Lawyers" every Wednesday morning. They were recently recognized by the Bar Association of Guatemala City as a formal organization in charge of celebrating "Lawyers' Day" every year (parallel to the Catholic celebration of this day).

12. HONDURAS: The leader of the Honduran Fellowship of Christian Lawyers is Carlos Roberto Marroquin, President. Roberto and his group have been very active in Christian mediation, especially between churches and denominations. They have a radio and a TV program.

13. MEXICO: The leaders of the Latin American Network of Christian Lawyers in Mexico are: Jorge Lee, President, Abraham Muñoz, Isaac Vargas, Lizbeth Monsalvo, Arturo Noe Velasquez, and Omar Contreras. Our Mexican colleagues are mostly involved in issues of religious freedom and the promotion of legal ethics. In early 2006, Jorge Lee wrote an article that was published in a volume about religious freedom in Mexico . His article "Una Vision desde la Praxis" (A View from the Praxis) analyzes the practices of Mexican government institutions towards Christian churches and especially points at the contradictions that have taken place since the passing of the Regulations to the bill on Religious Associations and Public Expressions of Faith. They also provide pro bono services to the poor.

14. NICARAGUA: The leaders of the Nicaraguan Association of Christian Lawyers and Notaries are: Melba Alguera, President, Guadalupe Gomez, Founder and Former President, and Patricia Tardencilla. They have been very involved in opposing the legalization of abortion in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Congress recently rejected a project that would have brought a very open abortion policy into the country. A cause of concern though is that therapeutic abortion (when the mother's life is at risk) was also outlawed. Guadalupe Gomez is also very involved in the organization of literacy campaigns and community development for the poor. They had a national conference this year on Christian Reconciliation with an attendance of 80 participants (half were lawyers and half were pastors).

15. PANAMA: We only have sporadic contacts with two lawyers. I think that a trip to Panama would be very helpful to establish a local group there.

16. PARAGUAY: The leaders of the Christian Legal Institute of Paraguay are Ana Soler and Rodolfo Berendsen. This group is just beginning, and their efforts are focused on identifying Christian lawyers in the most important cities of Paraguay .

17. PERU: The leaders of the Christian Legal Society (SJC) of Peru are: Alfonso Wieland, President, Carlos Carrasco, Vice President, Luis Barrera, Rebeca Cuadros, and Doris Salvatierra. Carlos Carrasco is involved particularly in promoting Christian conciliation among the churches in Lima, the capital city. Alfonso Wieland is the National Director of Peace and Hope Ministries, an outstanding Christian human rights organization that is doing an amazing job in several cities in the country. They have about 40 Christian lawyers on staff. Richard Ponciano is a Christian lawyer in Huanuco who is in charge of a team of Christian lawyers and psychologists serving with Peace and Hope ministries to care for the victims of sexual violence, most of them little girls who have suffered abuse from members of their families. German Vargas, Alex Veliz and Nolberto Lamilla work in the city of Ayacucho trying to promote the implementation of the recommendations of the Peruvian Truth Commission.

18. PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico does not have a formal organization yet but Gloria Cardona has a group of 5 Christian lawyers working intensely against abortion and the gay agenda.

19. URUGUAY: The members of the Christian Legal Institute of Uruguay (IJC, Uruguay) are: Rosana Guillen, President, Gianella Aloise, Secretary, Gabriela Viana, Grissel Airala, Marcel Legarra, Silvana Ferreira de Mello, Jorge Silva, Gerardo Amarilla, Miguel Caffaro, Lidia Ramírez, Sandra Duplajd, Mariana Errazquin, Walter Acosta, Jaqueline Silva Marquez, Cesar Augusto Cal, and Marcela Hernandez. The IJC, Uruguay works actively on issues of family violence and Christian mediation. They also have organized a number of activities in coordination with Focus on the Family to raise awareness in the Uruguayan society concerning the dangers of the proposed bill against ‘discrimination' in which the meaning of ‘family' is virtually destroyed. Non-married couples --including gay couples-- are going to receive equal rights and equal treatment according to this bill. Gianella and IJC have already had an audience before Congress where they explained their position against this law.

20. VENEZUELA: The contact persons in Venezuela are Mr. Oswaldo Tovar and Ms. Elena Fuenmayor. They are very involved in politics in opposition to the current president and have very little time to build the national network. We are working on establishing new contacts.

21. GLOBAL ACTION: ALA/RLAAC has intervened as a Regional Network sending letters to Amnesty International regarding their promotion of abortion as part of their policy, as well as to other global human rights organizations concerning these issues.