- Here’s a story from CPTnet:
November 5, 2002
COLOMBIA: Bringing peace to Colombia: one prayer, one conversation at a time
by Carol Foltz Spring
In our work with Christian Peacemaker Teams, we plant seeds of peace daily. We do not know which of the seeds will bear fruit, but each time we talk about peace it can be a seed.
On October 11, 2002, Lena Siegers (Blyth, ON) and two members of a recent CPT delegation to Colombia headed down the Opon River in CPT’s motorized metal canoe and saw a lineup of a dozen armed men along the riverbank. They wore new, matching uniforms with insignia of a local paramilitary group. Paramilitaries are illegal according to Colombian law and responsible for approximately 80% of politically motivated kidnappings and killings in Colombia.
The leader of the group asked Siegers to leave and mentioned that there was another group of paramilitaries down river. She said, “First we’ll pray.” The group of CPTers joined hands on the riverbank and Siegers prayed loud enough for all to hear. By the time the group finished singing, “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying,” the men were gone.
The CPTers then followed the men down river where they encountered another group of paramilitaries, standing at attention with their feet apart, from the same unit. Each carried an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. The commander looked surprised to see the CPTers and wanted to talk to Siegers immediately, but she shook hands with each of the young men first, while the two women on the delegation talked with the other armed men. When Siegers began speaking with the commander, everything got quiet. She talked with him about CPT, about nonviolence, about vengeance that only creates more violence.
The commander politely asked to speak. “The newspapers say bad things about us. It’s all propaganda. We work for peace, for the people. We are farmers too.” He said his superior was trained in the United States.
Siegers responded, “If you are farmers too, then you understand that you are putting these farmers at risk. If you really want to help them, meet in the woods away from their houses.”
“While you’re killing your brothers and sisters,” she continued, “the United States and Canada are taking the oil and other natural resources from this rich land. Colombia is so beautiful. If everyone would work together to develop your resources, it would truly be a rich nation.”
When Siegers asked about the commander’s family, he said, “Oh, yes, I have two beautiful young girls,” and talked of his love for them.
Siegers said, “Oh, it would be so wonderful if you could go back to your little girls.”
His eyes glistened with tears. “But I’m working to build peace, so that I can go home again.”
“I feel so sad,” Siegers told him as she put her hand on his shoulder. “Someday, before you lay down your weapons, you will meet your brother and have to kill him. He has a face too, he has a mother too.” She traced his face with her hand. “I know your face now.” She traced her own. “And you know mine.”
A photo of Siegers in the kitchen of CPT Colombia’s house is available at www.dallaspeacecenter.org/lena.htm.
Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative among Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations and Friends Meetings that supports violence reduction efforts around the world. Contact CPT, POB 6508 Chicago, IL 60680; Telephone: 773-277-0253 Fax: 773-277-0291.