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Colloquium On Violence & Religion



COV&R-Bulletin No. 16 (April 1999)

Report from the semi-annual American meeting of COV&R

on Fieldwork in Sacred Violence.

(Orlando, Florida, November 21)

The semi-annual American meeting of COV&R met in Orlando, Florida, November 21 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. The topic was "Fieldwork in Sacred Violence." Fred Boehrer of the Catholic Worker Community in Albany, New York, described the many ways he and his colleagues work to defend the homeless, the marginalized, and the poor in his city. He is particularly effective in calling attention to the inadequacies of the local government in providing appropriate services to the dispossessed and powerless. He noted that his efforts were often directed to publicizing and mediating problems, and inviting those otherwise unaware of the issue to stand with the Catholic Workers in their own "standing with "the scapegoats" of the American economic and political systems. He left the convention early to fly to Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest with thousands of others at the School of the Americas, the site of U.S. sponsored paramilitary training for Latin American government soldiers.

The second speaker was Paul Bellan-Boyer of All Nations Lutheran Church in Jersey City. The speech and ensuing discussion described a scapegoating experience within a church and parish setting, a community crisis that exemplified in curious detail all the elements of the Girardian dynamic of collective expulsion. The respondents were Rusty Palmer, Thee Smith, and Walter Wink.