COLOMBIA REFLECTION: The Christ who has not risen


26 June 2010
COLOMBIA REFLECTION: The Christ who has not risen

–by Stewart Vriesinga


For the millions in a prison,
That wealth has set apart –
For the Christ who has not risen,
From the caverns of the heart –

For the innermost decision
That we cannot but obey
For what’s left of our religion
I lift my voice and pray:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

–Leonard Cohen


[Note: The following is an edited excerpt from a reflection
that CPT Colombia team member Stewart Vriesinga wrote.  People interested in reading the whole
piece will find it at]


One evening, while I was in the Cimitarra Valley community
of Puerto Berrio with the CPT delegation [See previous CPTnet release], the discussion
turned to the importance of remembering the victims.  CAHUCOPANA (a local grass-roots human rights organization)
hoped to give meaning to the victims’ lives through a public witness against
extrajudicial killings in front of the headquarters of the Fourteenth
Brigade—the armed group responsible for the killings.  They referred to their public action as a “Gallery of
Historical Memory,” in which they planned to speak the name of each victim.  Their plan brought back painful
memories from my time in El Salvador as a member of Peace Brigades

While in El Salvador, I had spent a great deal of time with
the community of Ciudad Romero, named after Archbishop Romero who was
assassinated by military death-squads while giving mass in 1980.  I met the folks of Ciudad Romero in
1990 while they were still refugees in Panama.  I spent two months with them while they negotiated the terms
of their repatriation, and several more months with them after their
repatriation.  The war was still
going on when they repatriated, and several of the youth joined the FMLN
guerrilla resistance.  I left El
Salvador some eight months before the war officially ended in February of 1992.
 Despite my efforts to return
sooner, four-and-a-half years had passed before I was able to re-visit Ciudad
Romero in Christmas of 1995.

I was warmly welcomed and fondly remembered by pretty much
everyone when I arrived.  After the
initial greetings and hugs, many people sadly informed me that Pilo—one of the
youth—had fallen in the last guerrilla offensive just before the end of the
war.  I spent that evening drinking
beer and eating tamales with friends. 
They had gotten together local musicians which I had enjoyed so much in
my earlier time there, and I got to hear all those songs that document the
suffering and resistance and flight from a “gobierno asesino”–an assassin

The next day, the conversation once again turned to Pilo.  Looking around, I realized that everyone
present, with the exception of Pilo’s younger brother Mario, were all
ex-guerrilla combatants.  “Murió de
valde” (“He died for nothing”) Licho said.  The other ex-combatants agreed.  “No!  No!  That’s not true!”  Mario protested.  Then in desperation, grabbing me by the
arm and shirt, shaking me, he pled, “Tell them that’s not true!  Tell them!  Tell them!”

I didn’t know what to say.  I understood that they felt that Pilo’s
sacrifice and their own had all been in vain.  Nothing had changed.
 As a priest had told me earlier, “Those whom we formerly considered poor
are now absolutely destitute.”  But we were in Ciudad Romero, after all,
named after that courageous man who, foreseeing his own death said: “If they
kill me I will resurrect in the struggle of my people!” “So what about Archbishop
Romero then?”  I asked.  “Did he die for nothing too?”  They
wouldn’t answer me.  With the exception of Mario, they just looked at the
floor.  It was a long while before I could think of a response. 
Finally one came:

Pilo’s hopes and dreams died with him, then I guess he will have died for
nothing,” I told them.  “If Archbishop Romero’s hopes and dreams have died
with him then I guess he too died for nothing!”  Finally, I felt compelled
to add, because I believe this to be true: “And if Jesus Christ’s hopes and
dreams died with him then he too died for nothing.  I guess it depends on

later, I put Pilo’s name on a cross I carried during a protest against the
School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.  Pilo’s story has also
appeared in The Mustard Seed –the
Toronto Catholic Workers’ newspaper –under the title “Resurrecting Pilo.”
 And here I was Puerto Berrio, re-telling his story for the folks of
CAHUCOPNA who were in a similar way trying to give life and meaning to the
deaths of their own friends and loved ones.  Some day, I also hope to be
able to tell Mario that his brother is alive.

the millions in a prison, that wealth has set apart; For the Christ who has not
risen From the caverns of the heart; for the innermost decision that we cannot
but obey; For what’s left of our religion, I lift my voice and pray: May the
lights in The Land of Plenty Shine on the truth some day.”

when Christ has indeed risen from the caverns of our hearts, there will be
peace in the Cimitara Valley.  



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