I never write about professional achievements, perhaps because I don’t often think there are any, but it occured to me last week that I made a big mistake in not posting about the Sanctuary Peace Church’s march and rally for the International Day of Peace (as pronounced by the United Nations and taken up as a day to remember our call to social justice by one of Colombia’s predominant Mennonite NGOs, Justapaz).
To give some background, it has been a “camel”as they say in spanish, trying to coordinate any action by this network. Celebrating the “Pan y Paz” (bread and peace) day together was part of the work plan ever since last February but to give credit where credit is due organization didn’t really happen until my colleague Diana (working on FOAP, a 2 year process with Justapaz helping 6 of the 12 churches restructure/organize) used FOAP as a platform to make a work comittee to plan the event.
Now, there are two ways to tell the story. One way is to emphasize that Diana and I were pushing the planning the whole time, that the leaders of the churches who came to meetings kept changing, etc. The other, an equally valid version, is to mention that for once various pastors and several faithful church leaders from various churches all worked together to come up with themes, logistic, and invitations. A group of youth from various churches came to a meeting to learn the chants we’d be leading, and prepare to be in charge of march-logistics.
The goal in broad lines was to pronounce ourselves, as Evangelical (here mostly short-hand for non-Catholic) churches supporting peace; a peace based on social justice. Since every church has a different focus we ended up with 4 (nearly 5) “themes” for the day: the importance of children and youth, nonviolence towards women, defending the dignity of those “deprived of liberty”aka inmantes, and victim’s rights. We nearly had a final focus on not paying extorsion to armed groups but given the delicate context of where the event was taking place, decided to let that be implicit.
After many many meetings and hours of work, the day of the march arrived. There were last minute emergencies, of course. But it was a success. We all marched with various peace-signs, chanted “More bread, less weapons” and “we are sanctuaries, of Christ and his peace”, “A dignified life, for women and children, for inmates and victims”. We heard music of peace, saw presentations on the various themes we were highlighting, broke bread and ate grapes together as symbols of social justice and celebration. Three to four hundred christians who largely have seen their faith as confined to the church, or inside their heart, took to the streets and started (yes, it’s just a start) seeing social justice as part of the construccion of the Kingdom of God, and even better, started seeing themselves as actors in that.
It’s an event. Just one event. An imperfect event. 400 lives were not changed. But (as so much of what I do here is, and pardon the self-referenciality of the thing) it is a seed. It is a beginning. It is one event, yes, but it is also part of a process. So now, a good two months later, I celebrate this little victory, and pray for more to come.