COLOMBIA REFLECTION: They call out; will you listen?


22 October 2011
They call out; will you listen?

by Seth Wispelwey

Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has accompanied CAHUCOPANA (Corporation for Coexistence
and Peace in Northeast Antioquia), a human rights organization based in
Northeast Antioquia, which continues to witness a high rate of tension,
violence and environmental abuse.  The
region is the home to millions of campesinos, many of them displaced from
around the country.  This summer,
an international CPT delegation, comprising church and community leaders from
Ethiopia, India, the United States and Canada, joined CAHUCOPANA in a public
action in the volatile town of Remedios.

Colombia’s people of the land—peasants, farmers and
artisanal miners, the indigenous— are calling out for an end to the
exploitation and environmental destruction of their territories and homes.  They call out for a restoration of their
livelihoods.  Greed and violence
leaves them dead, disappeared, or disenfranchised members of one of the world’s
largest number of internally displaced people.  These human rights abuses take place in a country that the
United States has showered with billions of dollars in military and foreign aid
in the past ten years.  

One can feel overwhelmed, morally compromised, or numb when
confronted with the violence and assaults on human dignity in a country that is
an ally and beneficiary of the U.S.  However, as the campesinos of Colombia call out for
partnership and support, as they call out for Colombia, some are listening.  Some are advocating.  Some are accompanying. 

 CPT closed the event in Remedios with a public action of
solidarity.  Witnesses were invited
to nail their grievances to a wooden cross on the stage.  Many were not sure if attendees would
feel comfortable enough to risk publicly their safety with such a move.  Instead, people could not come to the
cross fast enough.  As the liturgy
progressed, CPT led songs of lament for the indignities and abuses perpetrated
upon the campesinos of Colombia.  Then,
the singing turned into an anthem of protest, prayer and promise:  “We take our hands away from things
that destroy, the systems that oppress, from greed /  We will walk the earth without violence, in the strength of
peace and imagination /  Raising
your love, transforming our lives /  We walk in the dreams of God.”

As the chanting and singing grew, people were invited to the
cross once again, this time to transform it, removing the words of injustice,
and replacing them with words of promise, hope and restorative needs.  The cross was draped in the colors of
the Colombian flag and the singing kept going.  Members of CAHUCOPANA joined the members of CPT on the steps,
proclaiming the promise to “withdraw our hands from systems that
oppress” and to “walk the earth in nonviolence…transforming our
lives.”  Campesinos raised
their arms up in song while people in the square also joined in.   

 The campesinos of Colombia have called out.  Will we listen?  Will we take our hands away from
systems of oppression?  Will we denounce
their predicament, our complicity in it, and our determination to see lives
transformed?  Will you be a part of
this transformation? 


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