COLOMBIA: Colombian Mennonites and CPTers Begin Choir Tour

December 17, 2002
COLOMBIA: Colombian Mennonites and CPTers Begin Choir

With tears, laughter, and a laying on of hands,
members of the Colombian Mennonite community, in a
December 12 worship service, commissioned the
Colombian and North American participants of a CPT
Christmas choir delegation to Barrancabermeja.

CPTers Lisa Brightup, Kathleen Kern, Pierre Shantz,
and Matthew Wiens will join Adaía Bernal, Julian
Carreño, Sandra Rincon, and Mennonite Mission Network
volunteer Janine Martin on a singing tour of the
violent and lawless area around Barrancabermeja. The
struggle for control between guerillas,
paramilitaries, and the Colombian army regularly
causes civilian casualties in this area.

"The weapons that you go with are not the weapons of
this world," Pastor Peter Stucky told the delegation.
"You also go in an unexpected way, not with the
weapons that the armed groups here use, but with
weapons that seem inoffensive--with songs and
prayers--that disarm hearts and make people think in a
different way." He then told the assembly: "This group
is a manifestation of who we are as a church."

During worship, the Colombian delegation participants
shared their reflections on the upcoming trip and its
inherent risks.

Carreño, a young conscientious objector who had gone
on a previous delegation to Barrancabermeja, noted
that he had been an atheist until he came into contact
with other conscientious objectors supported by the
Colombian Mennonite church. "As I worked through the
church-related events, my atheism was destroyed,
especially when I went to Barranca where I met the God
of justice that so inspires. And I understood
immediately that God is not present in enslaving
apathy. I understood that one can only feel the Divine
when one consecrates life. In effect, consecrating
life is to live with and for your neighbor, to
struggle for justice, to accompany those who are
suffering and in short, to love your neighbor."

Rincon, a psychologist who works at the National
University, said, "When we start thinking about our
life, we start generating fears because we perceive it
as the most important thing we have and we don't want
to lose it. And so I think it is important that we
have to accept that life is passing by with every
breath, every thought, and every feeling. . . . Of
course I feel anxiety and fear and I think about my
family. But the security of my convictions makes me
live and I believe it allows those around me to live."

The group will travel in the region until December 21,
singing for different churches, organizations, and
displaced families with whom CPT works. The Colombian
participants will then return to Bogota and share
their experiences with their home congregations.