Focus: Chiapas, Mexico and All the Suffering People of the World Readings: Isaiah 52: 13-53:12, Psalm 22, John 18:1-19:42, Hebrews 10:16-25 The obvious answer to this question is, of course, no - none of us were there literally or historically when the Roman Empire crucified Jesus. That was one easy question. Jon Sobrino, Jesuit priest and liberation theologian from San Salvador, implores us to take a closer, more critical look at what this question implies in our lives as people of faith. I am reading "The Principal of Mercy Taking the Crucified People from the Cross"* and Sobrino's reflection on liberation theology again reminds me of my humanity and more particularly why I volunteer with the Christian Peacemaker Teams as a person of Christian faith. Sobrino leads us to the foot of the cross. Not to the cross of the historical Jesus rather to the cross of the crucified peoples of our world. This might seems surprising - to use the image of crucifixion and cross in our modern age. Yet, when I was working in Chiapas, Mexico a revelation of God's love was offered to me through the lives, struggle and hope of the Mayan people of Acteal, Tenejapa, Xoyep and other communities. These people are indeed the crucified Christ - being crucified by unjust systems, global greed and racism to name a few. The ‘North', where I come from, is the power center - the Empire- backing many of the unjust systems that brought the Mayan people to their suffering of their constant crucifixion. One day, while in San Cristobal de las Casas, a Tracy Hughes Tracy is serving as a long-term volunteer. She serves with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) based in Barrancabermeja, Colombia. She is currently serving in Israel-Palestine.Read more
Progress Report: Red de Mujeres (Women's Network), Colombia
September 2006 through February 2007
The Women's Network in Colombia has been active in its efforts to empower Colombian women by recognizing their abilities and skills and helping to develop them so they may be useful in the support of their families and themselves. In addition to helping women develop and strengthen their own capacities for economic support, the Network helps women develop their own understanding of self on a personal and spiritual level, and helps raise consciousness and understanding of the social issues they face and the effects these have on their families.Read more
I have fond memories of celebrating Palm Sunday: little children carrying palm fronds parading around the sanctuary to the sounds and words of "All Glory, Laud, and Honor," while parents and other congregants sing and watch the joyous procession which ends by placing the palm fronds at the altar for all to see. This is always a Sunday of celebration, joy and praise. CPT Lectionary Reflections for Lent - Year C The following is part of a series of Lenten reflections incorporating experiences of Christian Peacemaker Teams and based on readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C. Focus: Palestine Readings: Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29; Luke 19: 28-40 Which Procession Have You Joined? By Tracy Hughes Once we step beyond the joyous celebration, we encounter the theological depth of the day's events. Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, in the book The Last Week: A Day-by-Day account of Jesus' Final Week in Jerusalem, reminds us that there were actually two processions during Passover. "One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. Jesus' procession proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate's proclaimed the power of the empire. Pilate's military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and Roman imperial theology. Jesus' procession embodied an alternative vision, the kingdom of God. Pilate's procession was the procession of the domination system of the early first century. Jesus' procession deliberately countered the domination system of the Roman Empire. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus' crucifixion" (pgs. 2-4.) Domination systems are still a controlling force in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The domination system of military power and violence, the domination system of economic oppression, and the domination system of human degradation ravage the West Bank and Israel. CPT volunteers have chosen to deliberately counter these domination systems along with the Palestinians and Israelis who also choose the alternative path of the kingdom of God. As a CPT Corps member I have been taught how to stand against systems of dominations by the strength shown to me through watching and experiencing Palestinians stand against the use of deadly violence, economic violence and daily dehumanization at the hands of Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers in the streets of Hebron and in the communities of the South Hebron Hills. These Palestinians and the Israelis who support them are actively living - partaking in the kingdom of God - seeking the humanity of the other and choosing nonviolent, peace focused actions that are rooted in justice and love rather than violence and dehumanization. Issa is a Palestinian man who has chosen creative nonviolence as a path in life as a young Muslim living in the city of Hebron. Issa is a leader of an international peace group working in Hebron and throughout the West Bank. One afternoon, while accompanying a Palestinian man who was beaten by a group of Israeli settler teens, Issa, a member of International Solidarity Movement and I were stopped and detained by Israeli soldiers three times.Read more
Colombian Journey – An Inconvenient Truth Scott Nicholson – Colombia Occidental Petroleum and Al Gore would like us to believe that they’re environmentalists. “Caño Limón – Ecological Protection Zone” reads the billboard at the military checkpoint where the highway enters Oxy’s Caño Limón oilfield in the state of Arauca. “An Inconvenient Truth” is the title of Al Gore’s movie about global warming. The inconvenient truth here in Arauca is that Oxy and Al Gore are responsible for environmental devastation, not protection.Read more
Sixteen people were arrested by the military and police on charges of "rebellion" and "terrorism" in Fortúl (15 miles south of Saravena in the state of Arauca) on August 12. The majority of those people are community leaders and the arrests took place just days before the August 17 deadline for candidates to register for the upcoming mayoral election. During the May 28 presidential elections, the candidate of the left-wing Alternative Democratic Pole, Carlos Gaviria, received more votes in Fortúl than did president Uribe. Many people view the arrests as another attempt by the government to disrupt elections in Arauca. On October 21, 2003, thirty one political leaders were arrested in Arauca just five days before municipal and state elections. Father Helmer Muñoz, who was leading in the polls for the governor’s race, was one of the people arrested. I traveled to Arauca City with Juan Carlos, lawyer for the Joel Sierra Regional Human Rights Committee, on August 14. I was able to talk with ten of the prisoners from Fortúl who were being held in the Arauca City police station. Two teachers, Abdón Goyeneche and William Saenz, were among the people arrested. Abdón has taught for 22 years and is the president of the Fortul teachers union. His brother, Leonel, was also a teacher and the treasurer of the United Workers Federation in Arauca. The Colombian military murdered Leonel and two other Arauca social leaders on August 5, 2004. Emiro, one of Abdón’s other brothers, was imprisoned during another mass arrest here in Saravena on August 21, 2003. Even though Emiro has not been convicted of any crime, he has spent three years in prison. “Last night we slept on the ground, chained to the bars, like dogs” said William - who has been a teacher for 18 years. “Because I help the poor, I’m considered a terrorist. My fear is that after I’m released, they’ll come to my house and kill me. That’s happened with a lot of innocent people.” William and Margarita have three children – seven, nine, and fifteen years old. William’s salary is their only income and he’s worried about how the family will survive while he’s in prison. When we arrived at the entrance to the Arauca City police station on August 15, the prisoners from Fortúl had been handcuffed together and lined up in front of the media. A police agent turned her camera directly at us and I took out my camera to return the favor. Colonel Palacios, the police commander, shouted “You can’t take photos here, this is a military establishment!” “She was filming me!” I shouted back. I wasn’t able to get the photo but the agent did stop filming us. I filed a complaint that afternoon with the director of the government human rights office in Arauca about being filmed by the agent and the forced participation of the prisoners in the “press conference.” That evening the prisoners were shown on the news and Colonel Palacios described the danger they posed for Arauca. One of those dangerous individuals is Luz Marina Rodriguez – a community leader and the mother of 7-month-old Mariangel. “She’s my first child and I’m going to miss that beautiful process – her first steps and her first words.” More than 500 people rallied together in the sports stadium in Fortúl on August 17 to call for the release of the prisoners. They then marched through the streets and past the police station where the prisoners had been held on August 12. Later that afternoon, Maria Gelvez registered as the candidate of the Alternative Democratic Pole for the September 17 mayoral elections. In love and solidarity, Scott Scott Nicholson serves as a Short-term Volunteer with the Social Organizations of Arauca, Colombia. As a part of the process of accompaniment, Scott works as an advisor/consultant in the administration of productive projects in the rural communitiesRead more
Here in the state of Arauca, the two guerrilla groups that say they’re fighting for social justice have decided to aim their weapons at each other. They’re also threatening and killing people that they view as supporters of the other group. After five months of fighting they’ve accomplished what the Colombian military and their paramilitary allies couldn’t achieve in decades – they’ve temporarily shut down the social movement in Arauca. Many people are fleeing from the threats and fighting in the countryside and seeking refuge in the small cities of Arauca. This mass displacement has increased sharply during the past week. When I arrived in Saravena on July 10, there were around 30 people who were staying here in the social organizations’ building. Yesterday, twenty five more people arrived and there are now 123 people staying in the building – including 31 children ten-years-old or younger. When the Community Action for Justice in the Americas delegation was here in Arauca last year, we heard a lot about the “degradation” of the war. The impact of nearly $4 billion in U.S. military aid to Colombia in the past six years has been like throwing gasoline on a fire. Both the military and the guerrillas have escalated their actions and the principal victims have been the civilian population. The fight between the two guerrilla groups is the most recent expression of this downward spiral of the war. This complicated and chaotic situation makes the role of international accompaniment risky and difficult. International accompaniment has played a vital role in helping to protect people from abuse by the Colombian military and their paramilitary allies. Those forces have been reluctant to commit atrocities in the presence of international witnesses because that could jeopardize their U.S. funding. Unfortunately, international accompaniment doesn’t provide this same deterrence in the midst of this fight between the two guerrilla groups. Thus far, the fighting is taking place in certain areas of the countryside and the urban areas have remained relatively safe. The local government and military authorities are trying to gain as much political advantage as possible from the fight between the guerrilla groups. On August 11, the mayor of Saravena called on the local schools to have their students participate in a “peace march.” There was such a strong presence of soldiers alongside the march that it was essentially a military project. In addition to the bullets and bombs, the people of Arauca are also suffering a brutal economic war. While Occidental Petroleum continues to pump 95,000 barrels of oil a day out of Arauca (more than $7 million at current prices), the majority of the people here live in poverty. Oxy’s pipeline passes by communities with dirt-floor shacks where peasant farmers toil to grow crops for prices that barely cover the cost of transporting the crops to market. Welcome to the global “free market” which we’re told is bringing democracy and prosperity to everyone. The people in Arauca are organizing themselves to resist this economic war, just as they’ve resisted years of government-sponsored killings, massacres, and mass arrests. Hopefully, the strength and wisdom of the Araucan people will also be able to endure and overcome this fight between the two guerrilla groups. In love and solidarity, Scott Scott Nicholson serves as a Short-term Volunteer with the Social Organizations of Arauca, Colombia. As a part of the process of accompaniment, Scott works as an advisor/consultant in the administration of productive projects in the rural communities.Read more
On the morning of August 5, Fray told me "We’ve got company." When I stepped outside of the social organizations’ building here in Saravena, a tank and an armored personnel carrier were parked across the street. The cannon of the personnel carrier was pointed towards the building and the machine gun was pointed towards the corner of the building. It was an intimidating display of our tax dollars at work – $3.8 billion in military aid to Colombia since 2000. August 5 was the second anniversary of the massacre by the Colombian military of three social leaders here in the state of Arauca – Alirio Martinez, Jorge Prieto, and Leonel Goyeneche. Alirio was the president of the Departmental Peasant Association, Jorge was the president of the Arauca section of the health care workers union, and Leonel was a teacher and the treasurer of the Arauca section of the United Workers Federation. On August 4, 2004, leaders of the Arauca social movement met in the community of Caño Seco. Alirio and Leonel spent that night in Jorge’s house. The military came into the community early the following morning. A civilian informant led three soldiers to Jorge’s house. The soldiers dragged the three men out of their beds, made them kneel down, and executed them. Later that day, vice president Santos and defense minister Uribe said that the three men were guerrillas who had fired on the soldiers, and the soldiers then fired back killing them. The soldiers were members of the Revéiz Pizarro military brigade based in Saravena. Colonel Francisco Medina was the brigade commander. I met Medina in July 2004 and he told me he had just returned fromRead more
First National Summit Conference of Evangelical Christian Churches for Peace in Colombia
San Andrés Island, Colombia
February 13th-17th 2006
"We are hungry, but the food does not come—only weapons."
The following letter is from two leaders of the Protestant Council of Colombian Churches’ (CEDECOL) Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace. As CEDECOL encompasses 70% of the Protestant Churches throughout Colombia, these church leaders speak for a population largely ignored in this officially Catholic nation.