Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five columns written by Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. executive director, to mark 100 […]
Posted by Tim Nafziger on 02/24/08 at 11:10 PM
This is a guest post by my wife Charletta Erb.
The key to accompaniment work with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Colombia is solidarity. I reflected on this as a helper personality while in Colombia.
My instinct is to fix things, to help, to have a solution or be a source of optimism. Yet, my training tells me to follow, to listen, to support. Our presence as CPTers is not primarily about our skills, because Colombian peacemakers and human rights workers are doing a fabulous job at working for change. Instead, CPTers presence makes a difference because of what we represent: the church, a community of nonviolence and a watching world.
When tempted with the thought, “How can we help?” I checked myself by substituting “How can we be in solidarity?” I was cautious about being presumptuous, mindful of the call from aboriginal activists in Australia:
“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
What does this mean, when I could just return from Colombia without further concern about the liberation of Colombians? I have everything I need, and my life is busy. How is my liberation bound up with Colombians? I found this quote very helpful in conceptualizing solidarity with Colombia:
“Christians are peacemakers not when they apply some special skill to reconcile people with one another, but when, by the confession of their brokenness they form a community through which God’s unlimited forgiveness is revealed to the world. Community emerges when we dare to overcome our fears and confess to each other how much we still belong to the world. When that happens the light of God’s forgiveness can shine brightly and true peace can appear.”
Peacework by Henry Nouwen (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books 2005).
We confess our brokenness in our complicity in U.S. funding of the Colombian military as it commits human rights abuses. As the body of Christ we are connected to each other. We cannot stand by and watch our own hands and feet being cut off. We are displaced along with Colombian farmers who are forced off their land by corporations we buy from.
We confess that we benefit from trade rules that put Colombians at a disadvantage. Our lifestyle values money over people as we consume too many resources. This is not sustainable. This endangers all of us.
When we confess, and stand with the people of Colombia struggling for justice, the light of forgiveness shines and peace begins to emerge.
In closing, I’ll share a scripture passage read by Jim Wallis of Sojourners when he spoke in Chicago this week. He read Isaiah 58:6-8, explaining that our wholeness is wrapped up in doing what is right; that our liberation is bound up with others:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Charletta Erb is a consultant, trainer and mediator for nonprofit organizations. She also plays the fiddle.
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