A dozen international peacemakers from 10 countries around the world will visit congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 24-Oct. 18.
They will share their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Bolivia, Central Asia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sudan.
The International Peacemaker program is sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.
The Rev. Dayro de Jesus Aranzalez is pastor of Comunidad de Fe (Community of Faith) Presbyterian Church in Santador, Colombia and serves as executive secretary of Central Presbytery of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (Presbyterian Church of Colombia, or IPC).
Aranzalez's responses were translated from Spanish by Brenda Celia Trinidad Espitia, an international peacemaker from Mexcio.
Q: Where will you be going?
- San Fernando Presbytery
- Winnebago Presbytery
- Elizabeth Presbytery
- Chicago Presbytery
- de Cristo Presbytery
Q: What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?
"I have a PowerPoint presentation about the Colombian reality — the political situation and also the church situation. I will let people know about the real situation in Colombia, the function of the Colombian army and other groups there like the cartels and paramilitary groups and guerrillas.
"I want people to be aware of the connection between the Colombian government and the U.S. government because there are seven (U.S.) military bases in Colombia."
Q: How are the faith communities addressing this situation?
The IPC is involved with peace and nonviolence work, Aranzalez said.
"We have worked with ecumenical organizations and NGOs. The church’s schools promote knowedge and human rights and the way to peace."
The IPC also has a good relationship with the PC(USA). The churches are involved in the Colombian Accompaniment Program, in which U.S. Presbyterians come to Colombia for a few months to serve in a ministry of presence with Colombian Presbyterians working for peace and human rights.
"They don't do anything but be there. Since they are an international presence, there are an umbrella of protection. Not bodyguards, but their presence is really helpful because the government watches that.
"We would love this program to continue and get stronger."
Q: What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
Aranzalez asked U.S. Presbyterians to do four things related to Colombia:
- "Have churches pray for Colombia."
- "Continue contacts and partnerships with Colombia."
- "Ask the U.S. church to speak to the U.S. government to help support the battle against bases and weapons in Colombia."
- U.S. Presbyterians can visit Colombians who are in jail in the United States. They often have family members in Colombia who are being threatened. Some of the people in jail were drug traffickers or guerrillas who have confessed to working with the Colombian government, and the government isn't happy to be associated with these people. "We really understand this is a challenge for the U.S. church because this scares them for the American people. Perhaps visiting these people from the Spirit side and getting to know their story" will help.
Aranzalez also asked U.S. Presbyterians to visit Colombia to see the reality there and to consider getting involved in the accompaniment program.
"I want people in the United States to be aware of the Colombian situation and continue to support the people in Colombia."
Q: What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
"The Colombian situation is a difficult one and they (IPC and the society) are willing to make a positive change."