GEMN’s Conference Day 2

GEMN Day 2

Over the past two days in Bogota participants in the GEMN’s conference have made visits to various ministries in and around Bogota. Rather than give a long narrative of where we went and what we did I would like to offer a few reflections, some quotes and several  photos.  Much of what we have been doing can be found in this great article from Episcopal News Service written by Lynette Wilson.

On Tuesday we made a visit to the area of Bogota known as Soacha

Upper Room view from Holy Spirit Church in Soacha

Upper Room view from Holy Spirit Church in Soacha

and met some of the members of Holy Spirit Church. We heard from the priest Padre Carlos and from the two women’s rights and empowerment organizations they house. Mesa de organizacions de mujeras Soacha, or The Women’s Table of Soacha and Coopermujer, or the Women’s Cooperative.  Both of these organizations work for women in desperate circumstances.

The Women’s Table was called by the women in it “A place where we build our dreams”. They have developed a public policy document outlining eight areas where they want to see change in laws and attitudes towards women.  Some included a women’s shelter, the right to live free of violence, the right to health care, the right to an education, and the increase of political participation for women.

Chapel Crucifix Holy Spirit Church

Chapel Crucifix Holy Spirit Church

I was awe struck by the women who spoke to us. Both young and old they were powerful  and passionate about the rights of women and children and have put their lives on the line to speak out . Human Rights workers are routinely killed in Colombia by every group involved in the 30 year war that has engulfed Colombia. We heard of killing by the police, the military, paramilitary squads, drug traffickers and criminal gangs. As in every place of conflict and war women and children suffer the most extreme consequences. Right now there are 5.2 million displaced persons in Colombia.  The only difference between a refugee and a displaced person is that the displaced a forced to another part of their own country. They are internal refugees that have been forced from their land and property, sometimes several times and are now living in makeshift and very dangerous “towns” on the outskirts of urban areas.  The UN has designated Colombia as a humanitarian crisis and is second only to Sudan in the number of people displaced from their homes.

Ken, Jeff and Jeremy with women from

Ken, Jeff and Jeremy with women from Mesa de organizacions de mujeras Soacha

“These women are planting grains of sand that strengthens many paths” Padre Carlos

Sadly for every grain these women plant, others come along and try to sweep them away.   Multinational Corporations and the United States government are currently pursuing policies that will continue to displace families so that they can mine the rich mineral resources of Colombia and continue to pursue the failed drug war policies of the past 30 years. Our actions in supporting both corporations and politicians of our government that enact these policies have devastating  consequences for real live human beings in the world.

Solidarity is the tenderness of the People

While we were sitting in the upper room of the Church listening to the women speak there was an incredible hospitality offered to our double sized group. We were offered café tinto, a black coffee with sugar, then later arimatico I think it was called, which was a lovely tea with small pieces of apple floating on top, then empanadas with avena (a thin spiced oat drink) to drink. Each time we drank and ate together we were connected in the common, we were entering communion. We grew in solidarity as the tenderness of hospitality was shown and received.

On the evening of the second day a few of us went for a visit to Witness for Peace, I will write a separate post and reflection about that wonderful dinner and time together.

About fatherjeremy

I am a priest in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Oregon. I am currently the rector of Christ Church, Lake Oswego, OR
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