COLOMBIA: Planting New Life

March 5, 2002
COLOMBIA: Planting New Life

by Sara Reschly

[Note: The "death lists" referred to in this reflection piece are
developed by one or more of the armed groups in Colombia and carried by
local commanders from village to village. One CPTer saw a commander consult
his death list during an encounter last month.

Lent resources from the Colombia and Hebron teams are available

"O Creator, Source of our peace
 From the shadow of death over unarmed civilians
who want to grow crops and raise their children in peace
but who are forced at gun point to support one armed group or another. . ."

We said these words together as we began the liturgy for our third Lenten
action. Each week of Lent, the CPT Colombia team is doing a death-list
action, which involves reading this liturgy and burning a symbolic death

This week's witness was slightly different in that we did not use a
pre-made death list. Instead, we invited those present to write names of
people whose lives had been threatened. We were surprised to see the
tremendous response. I was personally moved when one community leader wrote
his own name on the list.

This week's Lenten witness was held in the town of San Francisco, which is
located in an area of the Valle Cimitarra that is currently controlled by
the guerilla group FARC. The majority of people living in this town are not
part of the FARC, but many of them are on death lists of the AUC for being
'guerrilla supporters'.
Thirty people from the town were present at the witness. These folks are
farmers who grow corn, sugar, coca* and raise cattle. They yearn for the
day when they can raise their children in peace. Thus, it was so powerful
when we burned the death list. With that small symbolic gesture we,
Colombians and North Americans together, were saying, 'enough of the
violence: no more assassinations, no more disappearances'.

In the ashes of the death list, we planted a small tree symbolizing life
and creation. The unarmed civilians of this town want the armed groups to
leave, and want life and growth to return. After burning the death list and
planting the tree, we ended with: "by infusing hope in the midst of death,
by transforming the hearts of those bearing arms, by enlightening armed
leaders in the power of nonviolence ... raise us up from these ashes ... by
seeing your image even in enemies, by teaching all children to celebrate
life, by converting economies of greed to ones of sharing...raise us up
from these ashes."

* due to globalization and the plumeting of the prices of their other
products, growing coca for cocaine is the only crop that is keeping these
farmers from destitution.