Colombia: Friendship and Peacemaking

by Tracy Hughes, CPT Colombia

CPT Colombia neighbor and artist “Aliana” paints CPT’s logo on office wall.
At its essence, peacemaking is about relationship-building among individuals and communities, whether strangers, enemies or friends. Peacemaking as relationship-building has its roots in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and I have experienced it with women, children, and men in the communities where I've worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).

One such experience began as a friendship with a talented, curious girl from my neighborhood in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, where I live and work with CPT.

When I presented the idea of painting CPT's new logo on the wall of our new office, I thought it would be great to involve a local artist. Fellow CPTer Pierre knew a painter who could do an excellent job; her name was Aliana*. I was excited, immediately thinking she would be a university student or a member of the local peace movement. I was surprised and pleased to learn she was an eleven-year-old girl from the neighborhood.

I met Aliana and her mother at a neighborhood party. That evening, under the cover of a huge tree, we sat together to avoid the rain and struck up a conversation. Aliana asked me the usual questions: where do I come from, am I married; do I have kids; do I have pets? I learned she has two brothers, that her dog's name is Negro, and that she makes him clothes. (I have seen this curly haired dog wearing a t-shirt running down the street).

Upon invitation by her mother, I walked to her house one Monday. Aliana showed me her drawings of princesses, Tinker Bell, and an amazingly detailed horse whose mane billowed in the wind. I also learned she makes sculptures, and was shown the t-shirts she sews for her dog. Aliana came to the office to paint the CPT logo of the dove, barbed wire, and tree leaves. She looked at the CPT hat, looked at me, and did a double take. She remarked, "Eso es facil." (This is easy). The CPTers in the room all laughed in response.

At first Aliana was shy as I photographed each step of her process. I was delighted to watch her study the logo, then the wall, then begin the task of drawing an in pencil. She gained confidence while painting the outline of the logo, then filled in the dove with great care. I was fascinated at the detail she used when painting the wire knot and leaves.

The outcome, so much more than a picture-perfect replica of the CPT logo on our bright red office wall, was a new friendship forged across barriers of language, culture and age.

*Not her real name