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SUMMER 2000: v5i2 INDEX

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SUMMER, 2000: Volume 5 Issue 2

Colombian Mennonites Develop “Sanctuaries of Peace” by Val Liveoak

During Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation visit to Colombia in April, 2000, we learned a lot about the peace witness of Mennonites there. (For a more detailed report see Special Reports: Report of Christian Peacemaker Teams' Exploratory Delegation to Colombia, April 7-17, 2000.)

Starting in 1991, when the new Colombian Constitution granted Protestant Churches the same privileges granted to the Catholic Church, the Mennonite Justapaz (Christian Center for Justice Peace and Nonviolent Action) opened a seminary for young men (Mennonites and others) who did not want to participate in obligatory military service. As seminarians, students in the “peacemaker program” would receive exemptions—theoretically—and after finishing their courses could then enter University level studies. While this was a legal activity, it wasn’t one that was always effective—there were young men whose status as seminarians was not recognized and who were still obligated to serve if they wanted to continue studies. The issue became so contentious that the Director of Justapaz received death threats and went into exile for several months. The Mennonites’ efforts set an example for the other Protestant churches, however, and now most of them have their own seminaries. It has also become easier for young men to enter higher education without serving (I didn’t get the details—perhaps it has become easier to buy exemptions) and the ones that enter the seminary now are more interested in the content of the program, which now also includes some young women. In addition, Justapaz has begun to work with rehabilitating children who have been forced into serving with the armed groups (currently mainly the guerrillas). After they escape, their families are unable to protect them, much less educate them, so they are staying in foster homes in Bogota.





CPT's Colombia exploratory team (l-r): Standing: Mark Frey (Newton, KS),Kathy Kern (Webster, NY), Val Liveoak (San Antonio, TX), Jose Luis Azurdia (Guatemala City, Guatemala), Sitting: Kryss Chupp (Chicago, IL), Paul Neufeld-Weaver (Worthington, MN).



During the last year or so, The Mennonites have developed the Sanctuaries of Peace program. As they described it, the process followed by fourteen of the eighteen Mennonite churches parallels FPTP’s Every Friends Church and Meeting a Center for Peacemaking. The Mennonite church in Teusaquillo, Bogota, has held several workshops on peacemaking, envisioning peace in their country, and conflict resolution, as well as heading up projects to work with people displaced by the violence. Justapaz and MENCOLDES, the Mennonite development agency, are doing similar work.

The call to form Sanctuaries of Peace is “[a] message of nonviolence that discerns the times from the perspective of the Gospel and…fosters the formation of people for a peaceful and reconciled life. It promotes conscientious objection to military service and practice…[and] rebuilds the social fabric of our country.” So far, no congregation has been able to declare itself a physical sanctuary, but other parts of the program are being developed by “…a people filled with the Spirit and using their gifts, talents and ministries” assisting the victims of violence and “seeking their personal, family, spiritual and social recovery, and their holistic redemption in God.”

As a part of their program, they are reaching out to faith groups internationally, asking congregations to also become a Sanctuary of Peace, offering “some possible lines of action for sisters and brothers outside Colombia:”

  • Dedicate a Sunday service to Colombian sisters and brothers and have periods of prayer and fasting.
  • Collect special offerings and mobilize resources for nonviolent peace efforts…in Colombia (II Cor. 8:8).
  • Sponsor exchanges and links of solidarity among persons from your country and Colombia (Acts 16:9).
  • Consider sister relationships among congregations and with other groups which support peace processes in Colombia (Prov. 17:17; II Timothy 1:16).
  • Identify the different dimensions of the social conflict in Colombia and the policies of your country.
  • Support actions that call attention to injustice; gather signatures, inform the public, pressure your government.
  • Carry out actions of solidarity to support those Colombians, young and old, who seek nonviolent alternatives to military recruitment for serving their country (Mt. 5:38-47).
  • Collaborate with other groups in your country that support the peace process in Colombia (Mt. 5:9).

I believe that in light of the increased military aid the US government will provide to Colombia, our Friends Churches and Meetings will be led to respond by becoming centers for peacemaking, and one way to do this will be to formally join the Sanctuaries for Peace project of our sisters and brothers in Colombia.



My Dream for Peace in Colombia

A part of the process of forming the Sanctuaries of Peace is envisioning a peaceful future. Some of “My Dream for Peace in Colombia” placed on a map at the Mennonite church Teusaquillo, Bogota:

  • To be free of violence.
  • To have full employment.
  • To Praise God with joy and gratitude.
  • Liberation from political corruption.
  • No Heavy Metal music.
  • Free from the [triangle] Guerrillas Paramilitaries Army
  • Release of kidnapped captives.
  • Release of innocent prisoners.
  • Liberation from my bad temper.
  • My family free from sin.
  • Colombia free from greed and violence.
  • Freedom from the sins of war, poverty, and a corrupt government.
  • Liberation from hate, resentment, vengeance, death, envy, selfish ambition, desire for political power.

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