27 Apr _ Call for prayer and action as Colombian displacement continues

News Service
April 27, 2010

Call for prayer and action as Colombian displacement continues

Bogotá, Colombia - On Wednesday, April 11, the Momento por la Paz (Moment for Peace) met during the noon hour at the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church here as people have done for 10 years. They spent the first half hour in Bible reading and prayer and the last half hour discussing information and action concerning peace in their country where war has uprooted and killed people for 60 years.

Most of those who attended were internally displaced persons who fled to Bogotá, a city of about seven million, to find some safety. They are frightened people who continue to be persecuted and hunted, fearing assassination.

“They come to the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church near downtown Bogotá because a relative, a friend or sometimes just someone they’ve met standing in line or in the street has told them they might find a haven or help at this church. So they come looking for support and peace,” says Peter Stucky, a pastor and longtime Mennonite World Conference General Council member.

On that Wednesday, Rebecca Bartel from the Mennonite Central Committee advocacy office and Jess Hunter-Bowman from Witness for Peace invited participants to write to Mennonite churches in the US and Canada to share with them their hopes, fears, and dreams for Colombia and calling them to support policies that build peace instead of supporting warfare, creating more victims.

On large banners on the floor with human figures drawn on them, the Teusaquillo church people knelt and wrote messages of greeting and gratitude to their brothers and sisters in Canada and the US for their solidarity during days of prayer and action for peace in Colombia.

Mennonite Church Canada called on its churches and Mennonite Church USA to join Colombia's Mennonite churches in the cry for justice, peace and healing in Colombia during this year's Days of Prayer and Action for Peace on April 18 and 19.

The 2010 National Days of Action focused on the displacement crisis in a campaign called “Face the Displaced – Colombia: Our Hemisphere’s Hidden Humanitarian Crisis.”

Partners in Colombia gathered some 40 photos of faces of forcibly displaced people in Colombia along with their stories. They plan to make and distribute large posters displaying these people along with their words as a way to make legislators and communities face the human reality of this crisis.

In 2009, approximately 25,000 people commemorated the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia. In the US, people sent 21,000 postcards to President Obama calling for real change in U.S.- Colombia relations. Congregations and university groups made more than 18,000 paper dolls displayed in eight cities to represent internally displaced people in Colombia.

According to the Colombian Commission for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), Colombia is now home to 4,915,579 internally displaced persons (IDPs). This is the largest registered number of IDPs in any country, now surpassing Sudan, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

A potential trade deal between Canada and Colombia may exacerbate violence around land rights and add to the already massive displacement of Colombians.

Despite Colombian government affirmations that paramilitary structures have been dismantled and that democratic security policies have made the country safer, partner organizations with Mennonite Church Canada and MCC have documented continuing human rights abuses in many territories throughout the country where paramilitary groups continue to operate.

After a September 2009 visit to Colombia, Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on the situation of human rights defenders, declared that human rights defenders and often their families continue to be harassed allegedly by guerrillas, new illegal armed groups and paramilitary groups. Law enforcement authorities have been shown to be complicit with private actors against defenders.

“People of faith all over the world are calling for international trade and investment systems that respect and promote the dignity of the human person as created in the image of God, and lead to environmental sustainability, for which we are charged as stewards of God's creation,” says Bartel.

While April 18 and 19 were designated as Days of Prayer and Action for Peace, the “Face the Displaced” campaign continues through April and “people can pray anytime,” adds Stucky. They can also join the poster campaign, organize church services and community events to raise awareness of the displacement crisis in Colombia. For more information, contact Colette Cosner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

- Ferne Burkhardt, with files from Peter Stucky and Deborah Froese, Mennonite Church Canada

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Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.