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Showing posts from 2004

Light in the Darkness

Six people were killed in the month of December last year in the Opón. Sadly, December in Colombia historically has not been the month of celebration it should be. Again this year the Advent season is darkened by the presence of armed actors who continue to create fear in the communities of the Opón.

Community members fear that the entrance of the dry season this month will increase the mobility and violent activities of armed groups.

December is also a month when many national and international organizations that operate here reduce their activities, and the armed groups often take advantage of their absence to commit acts of violence.

Part of the reason why armed groups fight for control of the Opón territory is due to an oil pipeline that runs through it. The illegal gas cartel (protected by the paramilitaries) taps the pipeline and extracts thousands of gallons of gas and other petroleum products each month. Money from the sale of this gas funds paramilitary activities and othe…

IRAQ: U.S. soldiers invade CPT apartment and then stay for a visit

CPTnet

IRAQ: U.S. soldiers invade CPT apartment and then stay for a visit
On December 10, 2004, CPTer Tom Fox was on the roof of Christian Peacemaker Team's Baghdad apartment, enjoying the warm, sunny weather when he saw four humvees parked in the street below. About ten neighborhood kids were hanging out with the soldiers. When they looked up and saw Fox waving, the soldiers waved back. Fox then took several pictures. A soldier in one of the vehicles yelled, "Hey, you can't take pictures of our humvees!" Several soldiers started moving towards the building.

Cliff Kindy and Sheila Provencher had just entered the building after returning from a meeting. Five soldiers followed them to the door and demanded entry. As Kindy went to open it, one soldier shouted angrily, "Open the door! Open the door!" Kindy did so, and the soldier said, "Did you take a picture? Give me the camera!"

Fox reached the door and said, "I've got it; it's upstairs. I…

As the Grass Grows

As God makes the trees and grass grow, so He makes justice, peace, and harmony grow among people. This is an insight I recently came to see as an ongoing reality in this world. Just like with the grass and trees, we can only notice this growth over time and so it seems to be with the coming of the kingdom of God. This is a reality I was unaware of before. This insight came thru reflecting on the fact that many people I talk to about CPT work are very moved and want to hear more about CPT.

One example is the displaced former school teacher in Bogota who came to my slide presentation. He shared, “The paramilitaries made me and my friends watch as they cut up eight of our friends with a chain saw. I then abandoned my home on the coast and displaced to Bogota, eating cheap leftover restaurant food to survive. Having to live off of this kind of food was very humiliating, and often I would just cry. Looking back I see how God provided for me, giving me friends at just the right times.” He no…

Soldier for Peace

Warm greetings,Friends,

Here in Barrancabermeja a friend from the Baptist church told me, “It is CPT’s example that got us churches out of just praying and into doing something for peace and the poor. Keep it up. You are very important to the churches. We are praying for CPT.” On November 26th there is meeting of all Protestant churches to discern how they can work together to work for peace and on behalf of the poor.

Here in the Opon the farmers say how important our continued present is for their security. They say how grateful they are to have the Barranca churches and a church development agency now active in the Opon. It is such a blessing to witness their uniting to stand up against the armed groups. This is a most hopeful sign for a lasting peace in the Opon. I am humbled that it has been enabled, for the most part, because of CPT’s presence.

I hate to ask for money, but as you know I could not give my full time to peacemaking without your help. It is getting to the end of the ye…

Vigil and Slides

I recently was invited to give a presentation with my slides to a secular high school class. I was surprised at the depth of their remarks and questions. Here are some of them:

“That must be dangerous. Aren’t you afraid?” I responded, “Yes, it is dangerous, and it is something you need to feel called to.” They then asked, “How can you tell whether you are called?” I told them this story. “Four years ago in January I sensed a call upon reading a CPT email request for more help in Colombia, which included a note that it was very dangerous. And when the feeling did not go away in June I finally started talking to my Pastor, family, and church to test whether it was the Lord. And to my surprise they all affirmed it. And here I am.”

I told the story about the first ever mass in the Opon last year and how grateful the people were for it. The Baptist teacher friend who had arranged the presentation said, “You know, here in the city we have churches in every neighborhood. How many of us tak…

A Message from a Dream

Recently CPT received a message from a person in Trinidad encouraging us to study the book of Joel. About the same time, one of our CPTers received a message through a dream for CPT. The CPTer who had the dream told a prayer group from her church about her dream and about the message from Trinidad. Her church came back with the message that God is calling us to continue our good work and that CPT needs to give attention to the teachings of the book of Joel. Joel describes natural disasters, encourages crying out for God’s help, and forecasts the restoration of everybody and creation.

The disasters mentioned in the book of Joel seem to be similar to the state of the world with all the war, violence, and natural disasters happening like the present flooding in the Opon. Things really seem to be falling apart.

Some quotes that have stood out for me are: “Grieve you farmers...all the crops are destroyed; Give orders for a fast...and cry out to him; Come back to the Lord your God; Gather …

A Lively Sunday

Today was an unusually lively Sunday. I went to a church where I knew some people because I wanted to make contact with them again. I enjoyed the warm welcome which they gave me. See photo.

The worship services here are quite different from what I am used to, and some of the differences make it hard for me to understand. One of the differences is the high volume loud speakers, which particularly make it difficult for me to distinguish the words. In addition, my church vocabulary is somewhat limited. Today the congregation was praying and singing and I understood very little. My thoughts were,” Why am I here? This doesn’t make any sense. They are just putting on a show, pretending to be religious.”

Then the Lord seemed to say, “Just accept what is going on, stop judging, and concentrate on me.”
And through this He seemed to show me that He was there, and to say, “Maybe these people can teach you something about worship. You could benefit by learning to worship as they are doing. Jus…

Paramilitaries

Dear friends,

250 paramilitaries invaded Alto Carnaval, Colombia, under the pretense that the villagers were guerrilla supporters. These paramilitaries are the illegal right wing group fighting the guerrillas, and both the guerrillas and the paramilitaries are on the US government’s list of terrorist groups. The paramilitaries came with two people whom they claimed were guerrilla deserters, and who began pointing out persons whom they said fought with them when they were part of the guerrillas.

The paramilitaries beat one of these persons, tied him up, and said they were going to kill him because he was a guerrilla at one time. Then the village Priest, led by the Spirit, responded on behalf of the accused, “He is no longer a guerrilla, and if you are going kill him, you should kill his accuser because he was part of the guerrillas too at one time." The paramilitaries were taken back so much by this response that they backed off and let him go. Alleluia!

This all happened a few day…

Orientation

Hello, friends,
Getting oriented here in Barranca seems to have gone a lot better than a year ago. One of my best friends, Pastor David, even said my Spanish has improved. It seems as though my ability to understand and hear is better. Thank you to those who have been praying for that.

The very warm welcome I received from David and others several from the Opon felt very affirming and good. It is getting to feel like old friends when they even remember my name.

As some of you know, I came with a month-old stomach acid reflex problem that wasn’t improving even though I was taking medication. So I went to see Chan, the native doctor, who had healed me three years ago of a bug bite, and shoulder and toe problems that western medical ways were unable to help. He pressed on my stomach and had me drink tamarind juice and in two days the problem was gone. I might note that I am still bothered by my aching arm muscle, however.

One of the biggest challenges in CPT Team life is living in a h…

Bogota and to Barranca

Hello, Friends,

In hushed voices, the Mennonites I was staying told this story, which had happened just the day before. A hunted man (we will call José), who has been on the paramilitary’s (paras) do-away-with list, was kidnapped here in Bogota. José had, by God’s grace, escaped when the car broke down. In running away he fell and cut his abdomen. Fortunately, no organs were damaged; the hospital refused to give him further treatment because José was not registered in the system.

José, part of a family with two small children, was on his way to meet with a Mennonite pastor. He had suffered gunshot wounds and stabbing from previous attacks. The church has been trying to help him get asylum in Canada. It looked like he would get asylum, and then the Canadian administration changed, and they have now rejected him. It is now in appeal.

The other thing is that numerous Mennonite church people leaders fear for their safety. And so I want to beg you to pray for these concerns and for justice a…

Hope on the Opon

Hello, friends,
I just returned from three days with the Opon communities which we accompany.

For the first time ever, people from the five gathered communities began sharing specifics about the fears and problems which the ongoing civil war causes them. They told us that the guerrillas, paramilitaries, and government forces threaten their lives, steal their bananas, corn, fish, and other farm products, and disrupt health and education services.

They then shared about the things that make them feel safe: the presence of CPT, the development organizations, the government agencies, and, in the last year, the churches. Next, they talked about what they can do about the fears and problems. The one thing that stood out was that their one strength was to unite to form a wall against the armed groups.

I felt very privileged to witness that uniting taking place during those two days, in the many obvious good conversations, in sharing while eating (see the photo below) together and in talk in t…

Bogota and to Barranca

Hello, Friends,

In hushed voices, the Mennonites I was staying told this story, which had happened just the day before. A hunted man (we will call José), who has been on the paramilitary’s (paras) do-away-with list, was kidnapped here in Bogota. José had, by God’s grace, escaped when the car broke down. In running away he fell and cut his abdomen. Fortunately, no organs were damaged; the hospital refused to give him further treatment because José was not registered in the system.

José, part of a family with two small children, was on his way to meet with a Mennonite pastor. He had suffered gunshot wounds and stabbing from previous attacks. The church has been trying to help him get asylum in Canada. It looked like he would get asylum, and then the Canadian administration changed, and they have now rejected him. It is now in appeal.

The other thing is that numerous Mennonite church people leaders fear for their safety. And so I want to beg you to pray for these concerns and for justice a…

World Hunger Relief Farm

Here I am visiting the World Hunger Farm, in Waco, Texas, during the Shalom Communities Conference. I am accompanied by three friends from El Salvador. The World Hunger Farm prepares development workers for the 3rd world .

Jim Fitz's 2004 Peace Plan

Greeting, my friends,

Well, I am finally getting to articulate my plan for 2004. Just has felt there were other things that have been more urgent. But I can’t procrastinate any longer.

My passion for peace has just deepened over the year. This makes me feel I am on the right track.

My mission statement still seems relevant. To do peacemaking lovingly, humbly, calmly, and prayerfully, so that it challenges, supports, and fosters reconciliation, friendship, understanding, and compassion between people locally and internationally.

For pictures and further details from this past year, go to the page "04 Pictures and Captions".

Here is a link to this year's budget.

Making a difference for peace in 2004.
The trip to Pennsylvania and California where I gave over a dozen slide presentations and had many significant conversations encouraging people in their peacemaking and sharing about my own peacemaking. I have given eight presentations in local s…

Jim Fitz's 2004 Pictures

Here I am at the Tiskilwa Strawberry Festival sharing my report with another person. She was very interested in peacemaking. In these conversations I try to really listen and help individuals see that their peacemaking activities are a part of God’s bringing his kingdom of peace. We all have our part to play. The rising interest in peace is very encouraging.




Here I am during one of my presentations using a map explaining the situation in Colombia. I believe if people come to know the real suffering that is happening in Colombia, they will withdraw their support of the 1.5 million dollars per day of US military aid. Colombia needs aid in the form of healthcare, schools, and other social services. We need to do things that help people for that is Jesus what taught.




This is on the Opon River in the countryside of Colombia. Here the Christian Peacemaker Team is accompanying boats of Opon farmers on the way to a meeting. This meeting was part of some very significant strides for a la…
This will be my last report from Colombia. I will continue to write messages about peace, from my home. If you do not want to recieve them, reply with remove in the body of the letter, Thanks again for your interest. shalom, Jim Fitz

Big waves in Opon 1/6/04

Hello,
On Dec. 1st a small barge went up the Opon River filled up barrels and barge with fuel which they stole from the pipe line. The thieves were most likely Colombian gas Mafia Paramilitaries, both illegal groups. On their return they evidently got scared the Guerrillas might attack them so they took what they could and left the barge on the River. The river went down, which caused the barge to sink. Since then the fuel has been polluting the river, causing a real ecological disaster. This contaminates the water supply of the farmers that we accompany on the Opon. CPT discovered this on Dec. 2 and reported it to the authorities,but CPT was unable to get them to do something to stop the polluting. Now the amount of fuel being expel…

Jim Fitz's Peacemaking 2004 Budget