What if an overseas community in crisis asked you for something you could actually provide — in abundance — with the help of your partners on the ground?
Thirteen months ago, a delegation from the Connecticut and Central Atlantic Conferences of the United Church of Christ joined our Colombia partner organizations of Justapaz and the CECECOL Peace Commission in accompanying the tiny village of El Garzal in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia. We had been invited to South America by the organizations to renew the UCC’s Partnership with Colombia, and we had been invited into the Magdalena Medio region by Pastor Salvador Alcantara, the leader of El Garzal’s Foursquare Church, to hear about that community’s organized, peaceful fight to remain on the land they had tended for decades under threat of violent forced displacement.
A delegation from El Guayabo, a tiny farming hamlet in the neighboring Department of Santander, had been working with Pastor Salvador and heard we were coming. They trekked across the Rio Magdalena through flooded waterways and muddy roads to greet us with their own story of a displacement threat — in their case, over a dubious legal title claim. They knew the U.S. team members were headed to meet with powerful government agencies back in Bogotá and their spokesman exhorted us: “We ask those from abroad to look across the river! Please mention our concerns as well. We also ask that you write a letter to the Governor of Santander.”
Since then, El Guayabo has had to organize themselves to face down several different attempts to displace them from their land, with accompaniment by outside allies and witnesses. On June 26 of this year, the police fired tear gas and pepper spray but ultimately backed down in the face of the community’s peaceful resistance.
After the incident last week, El Guayabo has come to us with a new call to action. Our Colombian partners have reported, “For now, prayer is what the community is asking for and is the best way to support them.” The CEDECOL Peace Commission and Justapaz will be visiting the community as accompaniment and witness later this summer, and has asked for prayers and messages of solidarity to bring in with them. The UCC won’t be represented in person this time, but we can be there in spirit — and in writing: messages of support and solidarity sent by July 14 to firstname.lastname@example.org will be delivered in person by our Colombian partners to the people of El Guayabo.
Last June, our delegation brought the story of El Guayabo with us to the national land title authority in Bogotá; this time, members of the UCC across the U.S. can join us in answering their latest call to action, and in supporting our partners making the journey in.
For more information, see the announcement here from Justapaz (scroll down for English); photos from the 2013 delegation are below.