Happy New Year! (Oh so very late)
Since I updated last I´ve celebrated Christmas and New Years away from my family in a totally different way than usual, spent four grueling days hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, had strategic planning meetings with the SEED team, and started the slow acceleration of getting back into the work-groove in Medellín.
Now that I’m getting back into work, one of the projects I’m most excited about is the context-analysis process my local anabatist church is going through. For a while we’ve done acompaniment of a group of victims in la Ceja, a municipality an hour away, which we continue to do on a smaller scale this year, but since I arrived we also talked alot about starting a local peacebuilding project. Instead of jumping into one right away our “social action comittee” decided to aim at writing a large local project only after going through an analysis process within the neighborhood to determine the felt needs, our strengths, and where we can best contribute.
A couple of months ago we slowly started gathering information on the neighborhood and writing and overview report on the history and demographics of the area, how the conflict had affected it, etc. There is surprisingly little neighborhood-specific information, so our next step was conducting interviews with locals from our own church as well as neighbors and aquaintances that had lived here for most of their life. We’ve just started so I can hardly generalize about the findings, but the couple of interviews I’ve already done has brought to my atention once again an aspect of the conflict in this city I have been confronted with many times before: a deep and ingrained distrust of everyone.
It was only after a year of attending church every sunday and being an active part of the congregation that members of the church (a few) started talking to me, inviting me to their houses or generally reaching out. I have had several situations where people who I believed I was extremely close to end up admiting that they still don’t trust me, still aren’t sure. Within the same congregation there are inumerable secrets and suspicions. Church-workers worldwide may think this is not particularly original, perhaps it isn’t. And yet it comes up again and again. I hear strangers say it, I hear my best friends say it: at the end of the day, you can’t trust anyone.
I want to be clear, first off, that I have learned to be a lot safer than I used to be, much more preventative of the offensively high risk of rape or mugging: I cross the street if I feel even a little uncomfortable, I walk in the light, I take a taxi if it’s late, I don’t smile excessively at strange men as a general rule. But still, I was always the kid that ran up to the rotweiler’s wanting to pet them and who, miraculously, never got bitten. I was the one who trusted my parents would always be there to support me and they have been. Every time I moved I trusted I would make friends, and did. I trusted my university experience would be good, and it was. I trusted I would get a job, and I did. I continue to trust that overall everything (for me) will be alright, good even, great probably, and I’m pretty sure I’m right. I’ve never really gotten burned be it economically, relationally, or politically. (Ok, yes, Bush winning the second time was a blow, but I was also 12 and by the time I was voting my candidate was consistently winning!) Yeah, sure, my reaction to a man in a police or army uniform is not completely trusting, having the Israeli Defense Forces as a reference…but at least on the most personal of scales (other than the couple times the IDF tear-gassed me) these “authorities” have largely only been at worst an inconvenience and at best a help, often times giving me directions when I’m lost.
I know the world does not actually work in such a way that everyone will be ok…too many people are not ok for that to be true. I know that not everyone’s intentions are good, that there is widespread and intentional evil out there…but I know these things in my mind, not my body and not my heart. People here do. I feel like I have recently been confronted with one aspect of the social-trauma felt by the population of Medellin, and it’s something that makes working in community, in groups, through alliances really hard. How do we rebuild trust? How, within an environment that continues to be unsafe and hostile, de we build webs of mutuality and transparency? Where do we start?Trust-fall Four and fearless she free-falls into her uncles’ surprised hug “Catch me!” his only warning of impending injury, or as it turns out, affection. She knew he would, grins, safe, as always, in his arms. Games of flying never become crash-realities. Not for her Fourteen and armed he waits for his brothers´ killer to appear the police inside the uniform never the right one the disappointment when the deed is done but not by him It´s always been hard to name the good guy on these steep and blood-stained streets Thirty years ago one man made love to and then raped the same city his victim left bleeding and missing him somehow The protectors of the streets now might kill you so might their hunters, though Of course, there´s also the empty fridge, the promised wealth of the shopping malls they rush to without a cent to spare. Between the cheating lover, abandoning father, murderous brother and lying economy, everyone here knows the taste of betrayal. She licks her lips imagining, reading of it in a book. They spit it out, swallow it, digest. When the time comes to fall, arms out, eyes closed trusting the hearts and hands behind them, she smiles and sails, confused why they stumble, why they refuse, why they flail.