by Alexandra Buck
Here in Menomonee Falls, it’s holiday season again: pumpkin pies, snowy days, and Christmas lights. But I can’t see any of this the way I used to, before I traveled to Colombia for two weeks in August. I went with a group from the Chicago Presbytery and the Chicago Religious Leadership Network. We met with church leaders who defend the human rights of people displaced by the armed conflict.
One especially difficult afternoon our delegation visited Afro-Colombian women heads of households who had been forcibly displaced from their villages around Colombia. Many of their husbands had been murdered, disappeared, or recruited by either paramilitaries or guerrillas, two groups in the armed conflict.
Felicidad, whose name means happiness, recounted the years before when she was forced to leave her village by an armed group and, with a small child holding her hand and pregnant with another, found shelter in the slums outside Bogota. Rosa told us about her three children whom she cannot afford to send to school and about the threats she has received to leave the corner of a warehouse she currently calls home. Juana shared the pain of having her 5 year-old son’s arm severed when hit by a truck in the road while she was searching for work to feed her family.
None of the women in the room receive sufficient reparation for their displacement to sustain their families. Worst of all, in many cases their status of displacement has been denied, thereby excluding them from compensation promised under government law.
After Juana spoke, we had snacks and conversation in fellowship, despite language differences and extreme divergences in our lived experiences.
Now, our delegation is fundraising money for a Day Care Center for these women’s children. The least we can do, after they shared their hurt lives and the little they have, is share some of our great wealth to fulfill one aspect of their need. With a Day Care center, the children will be secure, fed, and educated so that their mothers can work to support the family.
Experiencing the incredible faith of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia and all of its partners gave me a deeper sense of faith than I have ever had. I am convinced that being faithful to our God means taking risks that challenge our comfortable involvement in political and economic systems that oppress our sisters and brothers all around the world. Following Christ means demanding that the ignored are heard, that the vulnerable are cared for, and that our selfish, worldly desires are de-prioritized in seeking a more equitable distribution of power and wealth. This is not politics; this is faith.
I feel urgently that it is time we as a Christian community stand up like our Colombian sisters and brothers to work for a more just, peaceful world as we are meant to do through the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus fought against the powers that oppressed. He challenged empires and governments. To call ourselves Christians in his name, we need to do the same. And Colombia is a perfect place to begin.
If you feel called to be in solidarity with our Colombian sisters and brothers, consider being an
. This is a program of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. PCUSA is also in solidarity through policy and advocacy efforts, such as the
General Assembly Resolution 11-18
Instead of Christmas presents this year, I have asked my family and friends to donate the money they would have spent on my gifts to the Day Care project. I have all I need; others should receive from the abundance of this world. We are still raising funds, so if you can contribute, please contact me as soon as possible.