When popular movements rose up in Central America in the 1970s and ‘80s, the response from their governments was brutal: torture, disappearances, and death squads. At first, the violence was poorly reported in the U.S., so AFSC put staff on the ground to uncover the truth and reveal the impact of U.S. involvement in the region.

Faith communities in the U.S. began offering sanctuary to refugees fleeing the violence, and AFSC played an important role in facilitating those efforts. We contributed energy from our national headquarters and nine regional offices, plus lobbying capabilities in Washington, D.C. We also helped launch key anti-war efforts such as the Pledge of Resistance, and worked to create bridges between faith-based and activist groups.

Our education units produced widely used materials on the roots of the conflict, the refugee crisis, and the role of U. S. military aid and training.

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  • Man and woman sit on the steps to a building holding three children.
    AFSC assigned Phillip and Angela Berryman—experienced Central American human rights workers—to live in Guatemala from 1976-80. They traveled widely and provided first-hand reporting from the region.
  • Photo of an image in a newspaper showing three women, two of which wearing bandanas that cover their nose and mouth.
    Conditions in the region became so dangerous that the Berrymans had to return to the U.S. in 1980. They continued speaking out, educating the public, and supporting the Sanctuary Movement on behalf of AFSC.
  • Graphic displays image of Central America and amount of U.S. military assistance that was spent there.
    AFSC’s National Action/Research on the Military Industrial Complex (NARMIC) produced resources to inform the U.S. public about how our tax dollars were propping up violent governments in Central America.
  • Image of a flyer with a photo of students who were shot in El Salvador.
    This AFSC flyer features an open letter from Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador to President Jimmy Carter, pleading with America to halt military aid to the Salvadoran government.
  • Man stands at the front of the room at a table, facing audience.
    Archbishop Romero (standing) meets with an ecumenical delegation co-sponsored by AFSC in March 1980, hours after he called on the military to disobey orders to kill civilians. The next day he, himself, was assassinated.
  • Line of people hold signs in front of a building as a man walks by on the sidewalk.
    AFSC and our partners used creative tactics to call attention to the complicity of American foreign policy in the violence in Central America.
  • Group of people standing and sitting hold signs on a sidewalk.
    This 1985 demonstration in Philadelphia protested the “U.S. War in Central America,” pointing out the direct tie between the U.S. government and regional oppressors.
  • Three men wearing robes walk near two people wearing a masks, one holding a baby.
    AFSC staff provided extensive support to the national Sanctuary Movement. Here, a Guatemalan family in sanctuary in Vermont hides their identities during a public event.