COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Announcing and denouncing
13 August 2008
COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Announcing and denouncing¬†
by Jos√© Edward Escobar, CSB (June 2008 CPT delegation member)
translation by William Payne
During the 10-16 June Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation to the Middle Magdalena region (made up of members of the Mennonite Church and the Basilian Fathers), local inhabitants educated us regarding the importance of the Magdalena River to the region.¬† The river allows for commercial development and for transportation, but has also been the site of many massacres committed by armed actors.¬† The inhabitants of the villages of Los √Ďeques, La Florida and Ci√©naga del Op√≥n testified to these realities.¬† Frustration and desolation marked their testimonials, and even though they seemed not to understand the political motivations of the various armed groups, they were well aware of how the violence perpetrated by these groups on affected their lives.
Nevertheless, these humble farmers who continue to live in those lands impressed us with their aspirations to live and thrive amidst all of this frustration. In their faces, we saw a hope for peace and for true political solutions often absent among other Colombians.¬†
Knowing the reality of the armed conflict through first hand accounts, through the stories of people who have lived through massacres and displacement, is very different from knowing the conflict through secondary sources.¬† For so many of us, the Magdalena River is simply the source of great fish. ¬†What we too often fail to realize is that for those who live within its reach, the Magdalena River can mean both life and death.¬†¬† With this in mind and to finish our time together, on 16 June 2008 our delegation held a time of public prayer.¬† Through a Ritual of Purification of the River, we chose both to announce and denounce what we had heard and seen in order to clamour for a time when the waters of the river, too often marked with sickness and death, will instead flow with hope.
To be prophets in the midst of this armed conflict: this is the commitment that the members of our delegation undertook.¬† Living as prophets means announcing and denouncing every type of reality that goes against an ethic of peace and the protection of life, particularly the violent actions of the armed groups against civilians in this area.¬† The role also means accompanying and supporting the communities victimized by this conflict.¬† Finally, it means working to rehabilitate the essence of the Magdalena River, turning it once again into a source of hope and sustenance for the inhabitants of the Middle Magdalena region by rejecting every type of action that brings death to the people who live near it.