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A "Day Off"

Greetings,

I had a refreshing day off in the mountains of Bucaramango. I stayed in a Catholic religious community, a very quiet place which overlooked some huge mountains. Just watching the mountains does something good for my soul it seems. Big clouds rolled in over the mountains which brought rain in the night. The many different kinds of beautiful flowers which are cultivated here just delighted my being. Quiet service is a central theme of this lay community, exemplified in this saying I saw there, “One who does not live to serve, does not have a life worth living.” The mountains, the flowers, and the quiet service atmosphere renewed my spirit.

While I was still home, I came across some literature in Spanish by and about the Peace Pilgrim, a woman who had spend 30 years walking across the USA sharing about peace. The pamphlet gives suggestions about seeking inner peace and global peace and talks about how they are related. I had asked a Colombian Christian Peacemaker whether it would be appropriate for use in Colombia, and after reading it she gave a very positive yes. I wondered whether she was being overly enthusiastic and just trying to be nice to me. But I brought them anyway, trusting in her word.

At the Catholic community, a group people who work in family well-being for the government were having some meetings. I am reading Dale Brown’s book Biblical Pacifism. While we were waiting for lunch one of them noticed the book and said he had read Gandhi and some about Martin Luther King and was interested to see something that relates pacifism to the Bible.

Then a number of them asked me what I was doing, and I proceeded to tell them about Christian Peacemaker Teams, and how we are trying to put into practice the love of enemies that Jesus taught. One fellow said that one of their presenters had just shared that, “Only people who are weak have to use violence to get their way; strong people with conviction do not need violence,” referring to the armed groups in Colombia and the US government in Iraq. It seems that Jesus could have said that.

He said in their work they have a program for soldiers who wish to leave the paramilitaries or guerrillas and integrate back into society. They have to keep the activities of this program secret for the safety of the soldiers. He shared that they have a lot of men that abuse women and children in the families they work with, and that they are trying to change that so that they treat each other with respect instead.

Four persons ended up requesting information on CPT and the pamphlet on the Peace Pilgrim. One fellow, after reading them, kept saying how thankful he was for them, and that he was going to copy and sent them to all his friends. I exchanged emails and phone #’s with two of the persons, and we hope to visit again sometime. They both prayed for me spontaneously at different points in our conversation, which touched me.

Another fellow I met earlier in the week shared he wasn’t part of a church but that he read the Bible and believed in Jesus and that God puts his Spirit in us. He went on to share that he feels a call to try to help people. I encouraged him to pay attention to this leading. He is in his last year studying social work. I shared the Peace Pilgrim pamphlet with him, which he said he would be sure to read. He is now on my email list.

When Paramilitaries they take over a neighborhood, they become the government, and the way they settle disputes is that they ask one of the persons to leave the area or face a possible assassination. I understand this is a fairly common occurrence in Paramilitary controlled areas. It is often the source of the almost daily assassination reports in the newspaper.

A woman who is working for peace in the neighborhood shared with me that they are giving classes teaching people how to be unofficial judges to help settle disputes. This makes it possible for people can’t get along for some reason to go to these peer judges and not to the Paramilitaries.
She works for the Catholic Church, but pointed out that she was really an ecumenist, and she could be part of any church that was Christian. I said after all there is only one God. She has studied some under John Paul Lederach, an expert Mennonite teacher and practitioner of reconciliation.

These mutual encouragement encounters of sharing about trying to follow Jesus’ way of loving enemies in dealing with troubles personally and at the government level are very enriching to me. These encounters seem akin to what Thomas Keating in his book Open Mind Open Heart calls developing spiritual friendships. He defines a spiritual friendship as a relationship of mutual sharing of thoughts, feelings, problems, and spiritual aspirations. I sense I’ve developed this kind of relationship to some degree with many of you. They are gifts.

Peace to you,

Jim Fitz

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