Agroup of 13 women from different Christian churches and organizations working in human rights and peacebuilding in Colombia joined a Christian Peacemaker Teams’ (CPT) delegation during Easter Week of 2015. This delegation focused on the accompaniment of the campesino community of El Guayabo, part of the municipality of Puerto Wilches, Santander, Colombia.
This community is comprised of approximately 250 families who have lived in the region on the banks of the Magdalena River for more than 28 years. Since 2002 they have struggled for their right to remain in the territory, resisting unlawful eviction on the part of the national police and military forces who have conspired and aligned themselves with a man who declared himself owner and inheritor of these lands, without ever having lived there.
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5: 3-5).In war, the primary casualties are always the poor—defenceless civilians caught in the middle of violent, opposing forces.
In Colombia, the campesinos—subsistence farmers who make their living by cultivating the land—suffer most the tragic consequences of their country’s protracted armed conflict: destruction of the environment, displacement from their land, disappearances and death. Because they absorb the brunt of war, they have the highest stakes in ending it.
In his famous address at Mennonite World Conference, Ron Sider described Shalom as “being in right relationship with God, neighbor and the earth.” Shalom, he says, “means not only the absence of war, but also a land flowing with milk and honey. It includes just economic relationships with the neighbor. It means the fair division of land so that all families can earn their own way. It also means the Jubilee and sabbatical release of debts so that great extremes of wealth and poverty do not develop among God’s people.”1
When I walk through the community of El Guayabo on a peaceful day, Shalom is what I see.