A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Posts tagged ‘colombia’

We remember them: the Kandahar killing spree

I am haunted this week by the Kandahar killing spree. I keep thinking of the young men I met through the Afghan Youth Peace Initiative, some as young as 12, and I wonder what if they were one of the 16? What if one of those brave young men working for peace in Afghanistan had been dragged from their bed at 3 a.m. and shot in the head?

I am haunted by this soldier. After his third tour and traumatic brain injury he believed he would be sent to Hawaii for a desk job, instead he was sent to the most unstable area in yet another war zone. What had happened to him that the only option left was to shoot men, women and children in the middle of the night and then light their bodies on fire?

I am haunted by Leon Panetta who bluntly told the press, “war is hell,”  and to expect that this type of tragedy would happen again.

I am haunted by the story we keep telling ourselves that in this war there are “good” deaths and “bad” deaths as if the loss of any human life fits into such cheap categories.

I am haunted and yet I know that peace, justice and healing find their roots in what haunts us, what disturbs us and what will not allow us to say death and suffering and horror are what we should expect. So I borrow from the traditions of healing I have been taught in Colombia. Another war zone, another place where too often death is treated as a normalized outcome of “war.”

The Colombians have taught me the power of memory and how in honoring those who have suffered, those who have died, you hold open the space for what can be – for what we do not yet see but refuse to ever relinquish our hope for…

So as a way to honor memory and pray for hope I offer this prayer for all those who have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and all the places of war around the world…

Leader: In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the glowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the blueness of sky and in the warmth of summer,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the beginning of the year and when it ends,

All: We remember them.

Leader: When we are weary and in need of strength,

All: We remember them.

Leader: When we are lost and sick at heart,

All: We remember them.

Leader: When we have joys we yearn to share,

All: We remember them. So long as we live, they too shall live,

For they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

From Prayers for Life, Edited By: Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon

Walk for Justice

I joined with over 200 community members and international activists in a walk through the rainforests of Colombia. We walked in the steps of the community members who had fled 15 years before in the wake of Operation Genesis.

Operation Genesis was a military mission that bombed these rural communities to forcibly remove from the land. After bombing the communities the para-military forces came in and tortured, murdered, and disappeared people simply attempting to flee their destroyed homes and lands.

walk through the rainforests of Colombia.

Click on picture to enjoy a photo slideshow.

In honor of the fifteen year anniversary we joined with the survivors to learn of their lives now and the struggles to keep the land, to return to the land, to receive justice, and the ongoing process of remembering and honoring those who were killed.

We walked beneath the spread of ancient trees – singing birds – and the burning blue of a Colombia sky to three separate communities: Andalucia, Nueva Esperanza, and Santa Rose Limon.

Click on the picture above to enjoy more photos of this journey and these communities.


More help for Colombia

Thanks everyone so much for your help with sending letters to Colombia on behalf of human rights defenders. I need to ask for your help again. Below is an action from Lutheran World Relief and Chicago Religious Leaders Network on Latin America about Rogelio Martinez Mercado.
Rogelio was a civil society leader who was murdered for his efforts to return land that had been taken illegally by armed groups in Colombia. Rogelio worked closely with Justicia y Paz and the Movement of victims of Crimes of the State – it was several staff of Justicia that many of you mailed letters for recently.
Murdering Rogelio is a message to the community and human rights organizations that partner with them – that the paramilitaries will target human rights defenders.
Help Rogelio’s family, community and other human rights defenders by taking the action below.
Lutheran World Relief
We join with Lutheran World Relief and members of the Presbyterian Church in Colombia in mourning the death of Rogelio Martinez Mercado, who was murdered on May 18 in the Sucre province of Colombia. Please read about Mr. Martínez on the CRLN webpage: www.crln.org and take action! CRLN receives many reports of threats, unjust imprisonments, and killings throughout Latin America and responds through our human rights letter writing program, primarily with student interns from DePaul University. Join with them in demanding justice for Rogelio and protection for Rogelio’s family and community. Here’s how:
  • Read about Rogelio’s case on the CRLN website by clicking here
  • Write letters to Colombian government officials (names, titles, and fax numbers listed below) calling on them to:
    • Conduct an independent, thorough and independent investigation into Rogelio’s murder
    • Take immediate measure to provide adequate protection to Rogelio’s wife, Julia Torres Cancino, and their four children, as well as other members of the farming commumity of La Alemania
    • Swiftly resolve long-standing legal issues that have made it impossible for all farming families originally displaced from La Alemania Farm to return safely
    • Transform security and development policies on Colombia’s northern coast that have left small farmers vulnerable to violence

*some wording taken from Amnesty International and Lutheran World Relief

Please address and fax these letters to:
Dr. Francisco Santos Calderon
Vicepresidencia de la República de Colombia Carrera 8a, No 7-27 Bogotá, Colombia
Fax: 011 57 1 565 7682
Salutation: Dear Mr. Vice President
Dr. Guillermo Mendoza Diago
Fiscal General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B (Av. Luis Carlos Galan No. 52-01) Bloque C, Piso 4 Bogotá, Colombia
Fax: 011 57 1 570 2000 (extension 2017)
Salutation: Dear Attorney General Mendoza
Travel to Colombia! Witness for Peace has several trips to Colombia planned for this summer. These trips are important to help us understand the reality in Colombia. This way we can return home as better advocates for just U.S. policies towards Latin America with compelling first-hand experiences and stories. We especially encourage you to join with the Eighth Day Center for Justice as they partner with Witness for Peace on a delegation to Colombia this August. For more information, please click here or contact Erin Cox or Ashley Velchek at 312-641-5151 or wfpmagdalena@8thdaycenter.org

Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia, Apr. 18-19

Yesterday we mentioned that Liz is in Colombia. Since then this action alert came across our desk from our friends at Catholics Confront Global Poverty. With Liz where she is, we thought it was very timely to share with you.


Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia:
Urge Congress to evaluate and refocus U.S. policy and assistance to Colombia


Contact your members of Congress (click the link and scroll down the page) during the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia April 18-19 and urge them to:
1. Prioritize social and humanitarian aid for Colombian refugees and displaced persons; and
2. Decrease and redirect the disproportionate emphasis on military assistance for Colombia to give greater priority to the humanitarian needs of the conflict’s victims.

WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN COLOMBIA? Four decades of conflict deeply rooted in social and economic exclusion has relegated Colombia second only to Sudan as the country with the highest number of forcibly displaced persons within its borders according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Over 4 million people–or close to 10 per cent of the population-have been forcibly displaced within the country, and hundreds of thousands of Colombians have become refugees in neighboring countries. Colombia also suffers high rates of forced disappearances, threats and violence directed at rural communities and human rights defenders, and a largely hidden epidemic of gender-based violence.

HOW HAS THE U.S. RESPONDED? The United States has provided significant counternarcotics, military and social assistance to Colombia over the past decade. Despite some noteworthy advances in security, other issues such as internal displacement and refugee flows, widespread threats and targeted assassinations continue at an alarming rate.  The Obama Administration and Congress have a significant opportunity at this moment to thoroughly evaluate and refocus U.S. policy and aid to Colombia: to prioritize the needs of the victims of the conflict, strengthen human rights protections, and support the foundations of a sustainable resolution to the current conflict.

WHAT DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH URGE THE U.S. TO DO?  The Colombian Catholic Bishops Conference, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) agree that the United States can make a signifanct contribution to ending the violent conflict in Colombia and assisting affected communities. We urge the United States Congress to:
1. Prioritize social assistance and humanitarian aid for Colombian refugees and displaced persons by:
– Ensuring aid for the internally displaced in Colombia is maintained at FY 2010 levels and includes funding to prevent displacement and protect the rights of the displaced. 
– Restoring funding for Colombian refugees and the Western Hemisphere in the Migration and Refugee Account that was cut by the Administration’s FY 2011 budget request to at least 2010 levels.
– Passing House Resolution 1224 that promotes the protection of the indigenous, Afro-Colombian and women who have been forcibly displaced.  
2. Decrease and redirect the disproportionate emphasis on military aid to Colombia.  After 11 years of military funding for Colombia, in what was intended to be a five year plan, it is time for the U.S. to significantly phase down military aid and give greater priority to the humanitarian needs of the victims of the conflict in Colombia.  
3. Adopt trade policies that promote sustainable development in Colombia. Any trade agreement with Colombia should include, among other important mechanisms to minimize losses, protections for small farmers. Without such protections, the loss of rural livelihoods is likely to push farmers towards illicit crops, increase the number of displaced persons, and deepen the conflict.

WHAT DOES THE CONFLICT IN COLOMBIA HAVE TO DO WITH MY FAITH? The Catholic Church’s social teaching is rooted in the sacredness and fundamental dignity of every human life.  We are called to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need throughout the world because we are all part of one human family. Good stewardship of our resources urges us to assist those most vulnerable, particularly refugees and internally displaced people as well as to promote policies that prevent further displacement and poverty. 

HOW IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SUPPORTING PEACE IN COLOMBIA?  The Colombian Catholic Church, USCCB, and CRS are working to promote peace and reconciliation in Colombia while providing assistance to the people who need it most–the displaced, the victims of violence and the poor.  We also promote policies that can bring about a just and sustainable peace.

Take action!

Memory as resistance…the call to close the School of the Americas

“It is time to take the funeral out of the funeral parlor…” Hector Aristozabol, Puppetista

Dear All – This past week I went again to Georgia to join in witnessing with thousands of others the call to close the School of the Americas and the transformation of oppressive U.S. policy.

I was especially honored to see one of our partners there, Padre Alberto from Colombia who I work with on the Ethics Commission. From the stage, he spoke of the deep need for the continued joining of hands between the north and the south to build a new future and transform a very painful history.

This year there was a slight change in the traditional funeral procession that usually occurs within the area permitted by the police. This year a group of folks and the Puppetistas (an artist group that joins us and makes puppets and pageantry for the weekend) left the permitted space.

This group walked through the police barricades, past lines of officers and marched into the street taking our witness as Hector had said…out of the funeral parlor. This was not to damage or change the traditional witness, but to raise up the idea of memory as resistance.

Our grief is not private for if we make it private we make it individual denying the necessary whole to which our grief flows from. Our grief is public because the story of what created all the loss and tragedy in Latin America belongs to all of us as one human family, as one nation of participative democracy, and as one faithful spirit led community.

Our ritual then of reading the names of all those killed and calling out Presente! cannot stay in the “funeral parlor” or permitted area but needs to flow out beyond the arbitrary borders enforced by authorities for grief, for recognition, and for healing. It was a powerful act and I was proud to be part of stretching the boundaries.

I think of Advent coming up and the ritual remembrance we do as a community of the journey of Mary and Joseph. We are not just remembering this beautiful piece of our tradition. We are recommitting ourselves to the inherent resistance within its lines. Mary and Joseph broke the norms of the day, resisted local authorities and had the courage and vision to accept Holy Mystery with no guarantees or promises.

Can we? Can we flow out of boundaries, out of fear, and uncertainties toward that which is unknown and waiting to be born if we can but say yes? I would love to hear all your stories this Advent season of how memory has served to teach, inspire and raise up new paths forward in your lives…Much Peace Liz

“Let us vow to manifest peace and joy….” A Free Trade Agreement and Colombia

“Let us vow to manifest peace and joy with wisdom and compassion.” Buddhist Prayer

Dear All – Happy Easter! I would like to share with all of you today a campaign that has been put together by Witness for Peace. Witness for Peace is group that partners with organizations in Latin America to help create changes in U.S. foreign policy and funding in the region. They do this through delegations, education and advocacy.

Their focus right now is on Colombia. Colombia has the highest number of people internally displaced in the world, higher even than Iraq or Sudan. People in the country, especially the poor, have been displaced due to military incursions by the Colombian government.

Colombia is lobbying hard to gain a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. It is believed that if passed, the agreement will only deepen the situation of displacement and extreme poverty so many Colombians already face.

Witness for Peace is working hard to educate and advocate against the Free Trade Agreement and in favor of changing U.S. foreign policy in the region. Follow this link to their web page and for action ideas and information on the situation.  http://www.witnessforpeace.org/article.php?id=669

It is a good chance to reinforce with our Congress that the Free Trade model supports environmental destruction, poverty, and loss of sovereignty for communities. Much Peace Liz

Understand the fears and hopes of other people

“We ask for the humility as a people to understand the fears and hopes of other peoples…”
Dear All – I post below an action to contact your representatives about a human rights situation in Colombia. In a community in the north Curvarado, a community I have visited with many human rights workers have had their lives threatened by members of a paramilitary group the Black Eagles.
The human rights workers are accompanying a community of farmers  and their families who have tried to return to the land they were displaced off as as a result of para-military activity. The para-military took the communally held land by force and turned into an African palm plantation. The families that were displaced returned a couple of years ago and tried to begin a life again of farming. They appealed to the court in Colombia to receive a legal ruling on who the land legally belonged too and the court recognized their right to the land last August and ordered the para-military group to leave. Since that time the para-militairies have greatly increased their violence, threats, and intimidation of the community.
By threatening the human rights workers they not only threaten those individuals but the whole community that relies on the presence of human rights workers to feel and be safe in the region. Please read below and contact your member of Congress to help ensure the safety of these human rights workers and the community they serve…Much Peace Liz
We encourage you to contact your Member of Congress as well as Susan Sanford (Tel: (202) 647-3142) and Jennie Muñoz (202) 647-8307 at the Department of State to raise your concerns regarding the recent threats that the Justicia y Paz staff have received, especially to bring their attention to yesterday’s detention of Yimmi Armando Jansasoy Muñoz. If you are able to contact several Members of Congress we recommend that you contact co-sponsors of House Resolution 618 on the plight of Afro-Colombians. The co-sponsors of this resolution introduced by Representative Donald Payne of New Jersey are:

Elizabeth Deligio
FSPA JPICC Coordinator
8th Day Center of Justice
205 W. Monroe
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 641-5151

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