by CPT Colombia
Over a decade ago, the campesinos (subsistence farmers) of Micoahumado made international headlines when they engaged in dialogue with three armed groups whose fight landed them in the crossfire: the ELN (National Liberation Army), the Colombian military, and the government-supported right-wing paramilitaries. The dialogue, facilitated by the Catholic Church, was a major step towards reducing violence, promoting peace, and recovering civilian autonomy in the region. All three groups agreed to refrain from engaging in open combat in areas populated by civilians, including all ten villages that comprise Micoahumado, and not involve civilians in their wars. The ELN further agreed to remove existing landmines and not plant new ones on Micoahumado’s lands and roads.
For the past decade, Micoahumado’s peaceful strategies have been working – until recently. In January, a fourteen-year-old boy stepped on a landmine in a field not far from Micoahumado. The explosion tore his limbs from his body, killing him instantly.
Soon after, in the village of Caoba, a farmer’s cow wandered over a landmine, killing the cow and dealing a severe blow to the farmer’s livelihood.
In addition to the landmines, the Colombian military has increased its presence in populated areas.
Faced with these re-emerging threats, the campesinos of Micoahumado gathered to discuss a unified response. They reaffirmed their commitment to nonviolence saying, “We believe in the value of words. We believe in dialogue as the path to peace. We cannot have peace if we do not dialogue.” And they have asked CPT to increase accompaniment in Micoahumado.
In late January, CPT hosted an international delegation from Mennonite Central Committee whose members work for relief, development and peace in Colombia and Ecuador. They visited Micoahumado in the midst of this unexpected and tense situation.
The delegation was present when, two days after the community’s declaration, the Colombian military showed up and set up camp on the edge of town. The community adamantly denounced the army’s presence as an affront to their sovereignty and their safety. Community representatives, accompanied by CPT, went straight to the army commander to ask respectfully, but forthrightly, that they set up camp elsewhere, away from the civilian population. The commander responded politely that he would contact his superior for orders.
Later that evening, as the delegation prepared to leave, they gathered with the community for one last meal. Community members shared songs they had composed about resisting displacement from their beloved land. The delegates offered a spiritual act of solidarity and pastoral accompaniment by writing a “Lord’s Prayer from Micoahumado,” inspired by Julia Esquivel’s “Lord’s Prayer from Guatemala.”
Dwelling in the Spirit of peace, let us accompany the campesinos of Micoahumado, and all those who suffer the violence of war, in prayer:
Our God, who is in heaven
Holy is your name.
Your kin-dom come,
Because when your kin-dom comes,
there is safety for everyone;
there is no fear of walking on your earth;
respect for autonomy is recognized everywhere;
the land is cultivated for the purpose of life,
and never, ever for the purpose of war and death.
Your will be done,
that there may be freedom for all;
that the yoke of oppression may be broken,
for your will is the proclamation of the Gospel to the poor,
comfort for the afflicted, for all those who have suffered war, landmines and injustice.
Give us this day our daily bread,
the bread that makes us able to walk in the fields without a landmine killing us;
the bread of health care and education for our people;
the bread of living in peace and tranquility,
without threats and fear that afflict us and besiege the welfare of our community.
And forgive us, Oh God,
for not knowing how to share the bread that you have given us.
As we forgive those
who have taken your bread from us.
And lead us not into temptation,
the temptation of believing that all is lost, that we can do nothing.
the temptation of giving up,
the temptation of believing that we can do it all on our own.
But deliver us from evil,
from antipersonnel mines that kill our people and destroy our livelihood;
from the threatening forces of darkness that seek to destroy our way of life;
from the division manifested among us as a result of fear and hopelessness,
weakening our unity.
For yours is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory forever.