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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 other petroleum products are used to process cocaine.

In addition to the tensions generated by armed groups, the people of the Opón also face economic struggles. Corn has been the main cash crop in the area for years. Currently the price of corn is near, or even below the cost of production for a farmer in the Opón, largely due to imports of cheap corn from other countries.

The city of Barrancabermeja also faces a possible new wave of violence, should the paramilitaries that control the city become demobilized as part of the negotiations between the national government and this illegal armed group. It is feared that the paramilitaries may intensify their activities before they put down their guns. It is possible that in Barranca, in the Opón, and in surrounding regions there will be more assassinations and forced disappearances as part of paramilitaries “cleaning house,” in their dealings with the illegal gas cartel, the private security companies in the neighborhoods and processes of social cleansing (killing of thieves, drug users, street people, and homosexuals, etc.)

With this in mind, during this Christmas season CPT Colombia invites everyone to shine a light in the darkness by joining us in one or more of the following actions:
1) Fast on Tuesday mornings reflecting on your role as peacemakers in this world. Pray for the work of CPT in Colombia.

2) Pray Tuesday evenings around a candle. Pray for unity in the communities of the Opón and the other communities in Colombia who are in the process of unifying to non-violently confront armed groups that threaten them. Many sense that building community is the most hopeful way to create a lasting peace with justice in Colombia.

3) For your meals on Tuesdays use only food that provides a just income for those who produce it.

4) Fast from using gasoline on Tuesdays, remembering the violence that the gas pipeline brings to the Opón region and Barrancabermeja.

The CPT Colombia team chose Tuesday as a day of action to coincide with the fasting and prayer of the CPT Iraq team.

Jim

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