Editor’s note: Bethany Furkin of the Presbyterian News Service will travel to Colombia Feb. 3-13 to report first-hand on the churches’ accompaniment efforts there. ― Jerry L. Van Marter
From Jan. 27-28, a commission of the National Reference Group of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Colombia visited the Caribbean region of Montes de María y San Onofre, where a pilot project of the program is planned to begin.
On the commission were Bishop Francisco Duque of the Episcopal Church and president of the Colombia National Roundtable of CLAI, Bishop Juan Alberto Cardona of the Colombian Methodist Church, Zoraida Castillo of the ACT-Colombia Forum, Germán Zarate of the Presbyterian Church in Colombia, Chris Ferguson, International Coordinator of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Colombia, and Milton Mejía of the support team for the implementation of the program in Colombia.
During the visit the delegation met with more than 300 persons representing some 30 communities, human rights groups, peasants, displaced persons, women’s and church social organizations and networks, to dialogue over the situation of danger they experience in the region and how the accompaniment process is to be carried out in Colombia.
These people shared with the commission their organizational processes for recuperating their lands, to make the reparation of what they have suffered because of the violence possible, and to achieve justice.
In their testimonies they expressed that in doing this work they are subjected to intimidation by the different armed groups that continue threatening and murdering their leaders. They said that given the level of insecurity and fear they experience, the presence of international ecumenical accompaniment is urgent since it would allow those who have returned to the region to gain greater confidence and protection so as to be able to continue on their lands and to strengthen their organizational processes.
At the end of the visit, the members of the commission concluded that the testimonies and petitions of the leaders of the communities indicate the challenge to urgently move forward with the implementation and beginning of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in this region.
Accompaniment ― such as that coordinated by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ― will allow the Protestant and Evangelical churches and the ecumenical organizations here to strengthen their presence in the region and give a concrete witness through an international presence in these communities, which will contribute to the progress of their organizational processes for a worthy life, and make possible a peace that is the fruit of the justice proclaimed by the word of God.