COLOMBIA: Rejoicing after persecution: resistance in Southern Bolivar


25 December 2010
COLOMBIA: Rejoicing after persecution: resistance in
Southern Bolivar


by Duane Ediger


“Blessed are you
when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against
you because of me.  Rejoice and be
glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

-Mat 5:11-12


Farmers and small-scale miners in Southern Bolivar province
are in a pinch.  Palm oil
conglomerates and international mining firms have set their sights on lands
where the farmers and miners have lived and worked for decades.  Land titling, along with other basic
civil government functions, has never been established here.  Military bases dot the region.  Paramilitary groups carry out selective
assassinations—about one every day or two.

Simon*, a regional community organizer, and I listened as a
local leader shared her story of displacement several years ago from
neighboring province where lands are legally titled to the people.  Colombian military-backed paramilitaries
took legal ownership of land there through acts that included the rape of a
child that she personally witnessed.  Threatening her life, they forced her to sell her ranch for
two percent of its value.

The next day, Simon, probably seeing in my face or posture
signs of the pain, approached me and shared the following story.

“There is a village not far from here where
paramilitaries have come repeatedly.  They have pillaged and burned houses there on seven different
occasions.  At a certain point, the
community assigned a lookout to give them advance warning when they were
coming.  When they got the word,
the people would get their electrical generator, their music and beer and hide
them.  The paramilitaries would
arrive, kill chickens and pigs, take what they wanted, and burn some houses.  But you know what?  By the next day, the people of that
village would get out their generator, put on their favorite music, and throw a

“Foreigners, when they see this kind of behavior, are
dumbfounded.  But these people have
learned something.  If you let the
loss and violation get to you, you get worn down and eventually give up; that’s
what the attacks are meant to do.  It
doesn’t mean they don’t take time to cry and feel the loss.  But celebrating for these people has
become a form of resistance.”

May this be a lesson when we are hesitant to take risks for
justice.  Get started, with joy.  Keep risking until the persecution
comes; then we will have both a cause for celebration and a means to conquer


*Name changed to assure presence at future parties.


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