Biographical / Historical
In 1985, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, under the Coordinating Committee for Testimonies and Concerns, created the Sanctuary Working Group, to "educate monthly meetings on the opportunities and hazards of participation in the Sanctuary movement." Friends who were interested in aiding refugees from Central America could turn to the Sanctuary Working Group for resources and support. In 1986, the responsibilities of the group were greatly increased as the Working Group received grants totaling $21,000 to send volunteers to the U.S. southwest border to assist refugees. The group sent six people to the area on short-term trips.
Over time, the group began to work on a number of other activities. In addition to aiding refugees, it worked on sister city projects, overground railroad, raising bond money, and community education. Due to this increase in responsibilities, in 1989 the name of the group was changed to the Central America Working Group. Refugee assistance, lobbying, and education became the three main foci of the group in the 90's. In the fall of 1990, it participated in a successful area lobbying effort to pass the Dodd-Leahy bill, which blocked funding to the Salvadoran government. The most recent minute of the group in this collection is dated November 1992, but the final listing of the group in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting directory occurs in 1995/1996.
An especially active member of the group, whose correspondence and documents are included in this collection, was Charles F. Peterson. First as clerk of the Peace Committee, and then as clerk of the Central America Working group after 1991/1992, Peterson traveled to Panama and Costa Rica, wrote many impassioned letters to Congressmen and newspapers, and helped organize the Interfaith Pilgrimage for Peace and Life in 1991/1992.