Blessed are the Women as Peacemakers in Colombia

Blessed are the Women as Peacemakers in Colombia

During the situations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Colombia continues suffering from a crisis regarding human rights because of the poor implementation of the Peace Accords and the precariousness of the public interest. Justapaz, a longstanding partner of Global Ministries, has been working and obtaining concrete results in favor of just peace from the territories. 

It is significant that amid human rights and social justice crises, Justapaz’s accompaniment of the churches has been reflected in the consolidation of multi-stakeholder platforms for peace. Some of those platforms are the Pact for Peace in Lower Cauca Antioquia, Ciederpaz (Ecumenical Corporation for the development, peace, and reconciliation of southern Chocó), and the Environmental mining platform at the West Caldas (in formation). It is essential to highlight that Christian Churches position themselves as “bridges for multi-stakeholder social dialogue based on their identity of faith and pastoral action.” Besides, those who make up these territorial platforms include teachers, the movement of women victims, land claimants, small miners, peasants, small traders, reincorporated (in some cases). In other words, it is an effort to work for peace through networking with the different, the distant, and the diverse. With these platforms, initiation was achieved to construct development plans with 6 municipalities Bagre, Caucasia, Istmina, Supía, La Apartada, and Cali. Nonviolent public actions for peace, vigils, and services united for peace, and virtual talks on development and stability were held. The leaders of these platforms supported the humanitarian actions that were carried out throughout 2020.  But what I wanted to highlight in these short lines is the specific testimony of two women who stand out because of their efforts to build peace, justice, and reconciliation.  

Gabriela López Bernal, Pastor of the Assemblies of God Church, El Doncello Municipality, Caquetá.

Personal photo: Gabriela López Bernal. Territorial Peace Initiative, Encounter with former FARC combatants, former AUC militants, victims’ table, public force, and municipal administration, together with religious leaders from the Doncello municipality, Caquetá.  Installation of a symbolic plaque and garden, affirming peace and life.

“My name is Gabriela López Bernal. I am a Pastor of the Assemblies of God of El Doncello, Caquetá. I am very grateful for having been able to participate in the area of ​​Historical Memory, Human Rights, and Political Incidence of Justapaz.  I could learn more about Truth, Justice, and Non-Repetition, especially how we could learn from each other in knowledge and experience. Various sectors could share the process of complying with the peace agreement, its implementation, and the projects that came out of it. As we all build the truth, we also move towards non-repetition, towards the desired peace. As a church, as communities of faith, we strengthened capacities and the critical peace initiative. It was challenging in our municipality.  It was unique. Our initiative was called “Opening doors, sowing peace.” We reaffirm our desire to build collective peace with all the actors within the armed conflict.  In a previous time, we could find each other in a violent scene.  Now, we could meet in a different scenario.  The police and the army participated, along with the Table of Victims, the Municipal Administration, the Caquetá Paz Network, and the faith communities, represented in the Religious Freedom Committee, in meetings where all expressed their commitment and desire not to repeat events that caused so much pain, so many injuries.  It was superb and enriching.  We were able to show that communities of faith want to work on peacemaking.   We are taking action because we care, and each one of us can do a bit to build peace. Actually, it was something extraordinary. We could see God’s hand in all the actions, and since we are sowing in good soil, this land of Caquetá wishes and longs for all these actions to be repeated. Actions for peace. Thanks a lot.”

Josefa Méndez Pérez, Pastor and community leader.  She is located in Nuevo Paraíso path of Tierralta Municipality, Córdoba. (The pastor was a victim of the armed conflict on several occasions.  Today she relocated to a new place where she resumed her work as a peacemaker, with church women)

Personal photo: Josefa Méndez Pérez. Memory Encounter with Church women from the Nuevo Paraíso path, Galacia Church, Tierralta, Córdoba.  In this photo are women from the Church and support staff from Justapaz.

My name is Josefa Méndez Pérez.  I am a Pastor and community leader, located in the Nuevo Paraíso village of the Municipality of Tierralta, Córdoba.  I feel very grateful to God for this opportunity that God gave me to meet all this Justapaz team. They have been very attentive to me. They are lovely people.  My process with them began 4, 5 years ago, where I had the opportunity to meet Martín (Nates, Justapaz’s Executive Director) and other colleagues from Justapaz, and connect with the work from their various areas, such as Memoria (Justapaz Programme of ​​Historical Memory, Human Rights, and Political Incidence). I felt thrilled and satisfied with the work with women despite our limited resources. I have suffered a lot amid everything in this process.   We were kidnapped together with my family.  We have been displaced and have suffered, but Justapaz has always been with my family and me.  They have given me their hand and been my support. They have been the ones giving me strength, and now I continue working with Justapaz in women’s projects.  We are involved in women’s projects in my Department.  We feel like entrepreneurs, seizing opportunities for the development of our community.  Thanks to Justapaz for their work, helping us get ahead and build a better future.  We encourage our family and the people around us to persevere.  Thank you very much.  God bless you and continue to give much wisdom to each one of you.