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Showing posts from October, 2005

Human Rights Organizations meeting

I attended a meeting today where there was much heat, some laughter, and in which many straight forward questions about human rights were asked. The place was the office of the Vice President, and the occasion was a meeting between representatives of the human rights (HR) organizations of Barranca and government officials: Carlos Franco, formerly an ELN guerrilla, who is now the head of Human Rights; the police commander of Barranca; Army commander Rios; and a person from the Mayor’s office. I was impressed with the directness of the questions the HR groups put to government officials, especially in light of the fact that they are strong adversaries of each other. The HR´s are advocates for the people and watch dogs of the government in many ways. They also are helping the government to find safe ways to stop the assassinations and threats that cause people to displace. One of the most difficult things that they are dealing with is that police information is passed “under the table

Visiting Isidro in Jail

“Oh, CPT, the group that doesn’t believe in using guns,” remarked the jail guard. “Yes, I work for Christian Peacemaker Teams, and that is what we believe,” I said. “For forty years Colombia has been trying to resolve its conflicts with guns, and it doesn’t seem to be working.” This conversation took place at the start of my visit to Isidro, the community leader of Micohumado (Mico), whose arrest I had witnessed the week before. My arrival at 9:30 am meant that I was fortunate to get in, since they stopped letting people in at 10:00. There was about an hour of checks by guards, including frisking and being sniffed by a dog for drugs, stamps on my arms, and finger printing. Once in, I was directed to Isidro´s cell block #4. The door was unlocked and locked behind me, and immediately I found out it would not open again until sometime after 3 pm., when all visitors would leave. I was greeted warmly by Isidro. The next four hours I spent with Isidro, his uncle who he hadn’t seen in

Dropping Peace Seeds

Right off the bat, in the first step to Colombia, as I arrived at Princeton Amtrak Station, another passenger, Marie, said, "you must be going a ways with all that luggage. Where are you headed?" That sparked an extensive conversation about CPT and Colombia. After the vigil for peace in Evanston, where I stayed overnight. We invited Jorge, a Mexican, home to eat with us. I told him a little about CPT and he said he would like to do that. He is considering joining the Monday night Potluck seminars at Reba Place Church. He studied English under our close friend Mary Jude. In the airport I struck up a conversation with a 21-year-old Mexican from Miami. I shared with him about CPT and gave him a Peace Pilgrim pamphlet. He heartily affirmed our peace work. When we arrived in Atlanta I translated and helped him find his gate for his next flight. Than at my gate, Gerry, a Pentecostal diary farmer/pastor on his way to adopt four children in Bogota, started a conversation. I shared

Plan Colombia: Guns and Roundup

As told to Jim by Matt Wiens. Matthew Wiens has a Master’s Degree in Agriculture, and is one of my best friends on the CPT Colombia team. The guerrilla leader kept going behind the counter of the Santo Domingo* country store, making arrangements with the woman to buy some goods, while I was trying to pay attention to a farmer telling me his experience of the negative health effects of Plan Colombia spraying program to eradicate coca. I was so distracted by being so close to such a heavily armed guerrilla that I was no longer able give my attention to the farmer. After agonizing as to what to do, I thought, “Well, I better do something rather than just sit here.” So I went over to him and introduced myself, “My name is Matthew. I am with Christian Peacemaker Teams here working at trying to follow Jesus and his call to love our enemies. I just want to let you know that there are churches in the north praying for peace in Colombia. My prayer is that you never use your gun to kill any

End Fumigation

Hello, Eight CPT delegates walked down the Barrancabermeja airport ramp, knelt, and prayed for an end of Plan Colombia aerial spraying to eradicate coca. They prayed facing the helicopters and airplanes used in that destruction, as you can see in the photo. This “War on Drugs” is much more a war on Colombian farmer families, often destroying their food crops indiscriminately while aiming for coca planting. In many ways this makes the farmers more economically dependent on coca. The banner reads: Yes, to development, self determination, and life. No to gringo dollars for arms and fumigation. Two men wearing army green and brown, and US State Dept. hats, said hostilely to the reporters who were with us, “You better watch out because we have authority to arrest you and confiscate your cameras.” After hearing this, the reporters left. Then the US State Department representatives calmed down, and after some further conversation, agreed with us that the farmers here are just caught by

Barranca Visiting

I asked the eye glasses vendor, "Are you a Christian?" after I saw his New Testament. He humbly said, "I am trying to be." He then went on to tell me "I left my first wife and children five years ago for a woman of the street, who I learned was into a lot of bad stuff including Satan worship." The vendor continued, "I was only able to leave this bad relationship and the influence of this woman, after I got the help of the prayers of some friends a month ago. I am now praying and working to straighten myself out with the help of the Lord and a church. I hope to be able to go back to my children. I am a trained psychologist and here I am on the street selling glasses." I showed him my CPT photos and told him and his two friends about our CPT work. I ask him, "Would you like a copy this Peace Pilgrim pamphlet that has been a help to me in my journey?" He answered, "Sure I'll look at it." He then after reading a few pag

Sharing in Mico

Captain Rodriguez, of the Columbian Army called, roughly, from the door, "Are there some foreigners here?" We three CPTers immediately ended our meal and went to the door and introduced ourselves. Rodriguez told us clearly he was the commander of the army unit stationed on the hill overlooking the town. Rodriquez said, "I spent a month in Georgia at the School of Americas (SOA), and I found out there is poverty in the USA that I did not expect to see. Not everything is rosy in your country either." We said, "You are right about that." Rodriquez then asked, "Have you participated in the (SOA) protests, and if so, why?" I said I did because of all the documented atrocities of killing and torture that SOA graduates have been involved in, particularly the killing of priests and nuns in El Salvador. Rodriquez responded, "Those were just isolated incidents. When I was there I received no training in torture." I said, "Well, I am glad

Arrests in Micohumado

I watched intently from our back patio here in Micohumado (Mico for short) as people in black suits with CTI on their backs, soldiers, others in civilian clothes, and some with video cameras were going in and out of two homes at 7am. They were all being guarded by a group of soldiers. As a CPTer whose mission is to observe and report violence I paid close attention to this situation. Soon there were female cries from the home, "My child, my child." For the next two hours we heard this cry numerous times along with the cry of a very distressed teen who was one of four children of the mother involved. The pain I felt as I heard the cries of a mother and her children being forcibly separated made me know in my heart in a new way the horror of war. A crowd of Micohumado villagers soon gathered at a distance with fear on their faces. They informed us three CPTers that the people in black were the arresting body of Colombia's Attorney General's office and that someone ha