Colombia: CPT Colombia Fasts and Prays in Holy Week

CPTNET
March 29, 2002
Colombia: CPT Colombia Fasts and Prays in Holy Week
by Sara Reschly
We began our 90-hour fast in front of the Mayor's office on Wednesday at
noon with a prayer and a press conference. We, together with Colombian
partners, are praying every four hours (8am, noon, 4pm, 8pm, midnight, 4am,
etc) until Easter Sunday in an effort to highlight the plight of forty
displaced families who are living in degrading conditions in a school next
to the Mayor's Office.

These families were forced to flee from their homes in the Cienaga del
Opon-- which lies within the Barrancabermeja municipal boundaries and the
Mayor's jursidiction-- in November of 2000 due to paramilitary violence.
The community has tried several times to return to the Opon, including
earlier this month, but delayed their move due to lack of security. We are
asking the Mayor to use all nonviolent methods availble to ensure the
security of this community so that they may return home.

Our tent is located in the front yard of a large Catholic Church which is
directly in front of the Mayor's office. A few hours before the fast began,
while our tent was being built from wood and plastic, we handed out all 400
flyers describing the fast to passersby and the folks entering the Mayor's
office. Our first urgent action was to run to the photocopy store for more
copies!

By hour five of the fast, a rainstorm blew through town, taking the plastic
roof off our tent. We rushed into the Catholic Church with our sleeping
mats, back packs, and leaflets. In the church, we joined the mass lead by
Father Jose Gabriel Gomez. His sermon fit well with the theme of our fast--
that people should recognize their complicity in the destruction and
violence happening in Barranca and to speak out against it. 'Remaining
silent when there are black lists [death lists] is a sin,' preached Father
Gomez.

After Mass we went out in the light rain to assess the damage to our tent
and found that some angels had come and repaired the roof. Thus, four
CPTers were able to spend a peaceful night there, awaking at midnight and
4:00am to continue the prayer for peace.
On day two of the fast, Holy Thursday, twelve Colombians participating in a
CPT/Colombian Mennonite delegation and three Catholic priests-in-training
joined us in the tent. At noon, we had a foot-washing ceremony. The words
from the Gospel of John seemed to glow and take life as CPTer Lisa Martens
read them. The depth of the words entered into my heart in no way they had
ever before. As I watched my team mates washing each others dirty and
smelly feet, the meaning of humility and service exemplified in Jesus' act
flowed through my being.

Much to my surprise, two Colombian soldiers, who were watching our prayer,
came forward and washed CPTers feet. I wish I could say that love and
humility remained in my heart, but really, I felt quite angry. How could
soldiers who kill and humiliate the civilian population join us in the very
sacred and intimate space of footwashing?

During our prayer, I asked God to remove the anger from my heart. It
worked! I was later able to see these soldiers as full human beings who
were sincerely reaching out to us. As a friend commented to me, 'We must
look for the God within the other person.' As a Christian, I am called to
love all people and find the God within them.

Every four hours of our fast, we read the "Litany of Resistance" written by
Jim Loney. In it he quotes 1 Corinthians 13:13 which keeps running through
my mind and will be my personal slogan for the rest of the fast. "And now
these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is
love."

Christian Peacemaker Teams is a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite
Churches. CPT P. O. Box 6508 Chicago, IL 60680 tel. 312-455-1199 FAX
312-432-1213, E-Mail cpt@igc.org WEB www.cpt.org