Fifteen international peacemakers from different countries around the world are visiting congregations, presbyteries and colleges of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 21-Oct. 15.
They are sharing 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 Colombia, Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Northern Ireland, Palestine, the Philippines, Russia and Syria.
German Zarate-Durier directs the Office of Diaconia (mission and service) of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, which focuses on church development and the promotion of human rights. He works with social justice organizations, especially those devoted to victims of violence, and with the Presbyterian Accompaniment Program for Peace. The violence in Colombia is largely due to a five-decades -long civil war.
German is visiting the Presbyteries of Great Rivers, Twin Cities Area, East Iowa and Middle Tennessee, as well as the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations in New York City.
What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?
“For our churches there are big challenges. I come from a very violent country. We try not to concentrate on the violent situation, but we try to develop possibilities with other organizations, social organizations of the society, and try to promote hope in many situations where there is a violation of rights, not just human rights, but rights like education, housing, and jobs. We are in a context of violence, but we still must insist on hope. Hope promotes action so people can find ways to solve their problems.”
How are the faith communities addressing this situation?
“Our people are faithful people, especially the poor people. The poor people believe that God has something for them and our role is to find with them the ways that develop opportunities. We look for the best resources to develop communities. We are encouraging people to organize themselves in micro enterprises with an ethic that serves the community. We are called as Christians to serve the community.”
What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
“Little by little we have been learning that we can do many things if we are together, many, many things. We believe that we have to participate in the development of the nation, community and the church.”
What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
“We have to be committed to what we are doing. It is a process; things don’t change one day to another.”
Pat Cole is a communications specialist for the Presbyterian Mission Agency (formerly the General Assembly Mission Council) and an occasional contributor to Presbyterian News Service.