2014 Changemakers in Colombia

Beyond the Spirit of Empire

Posted by Odette Lockwood-Stewart

…we Latin Americans are poor because the ground we tread is rich… Eduardo Galeano

…we Latin Americans are poor because the ground we tread is rich…
Eduardo Galeano

Three days before we arrived at the community of Tamarindo the homes and crops of many families were bulldozed. Yucca, corn, cane, plantains, fruit trees, and animals all destroyed. I spoke with a 91-year-old man who tried to save his plantains after his crops were bulldozed. He knew they were too green to ripen and that they would rot. But he is a campesino and it is his crop, his work, his life.

These families, who had already been displaced from other regions and homes multiple times in order to escape violence or ordered by the government to leave for the expansion of free trade zone warehouses for multi-national corporations, met with us, showed us great generosity and hospitality. Government promises to relocate them have not been fulfilled. They invited us to walk with them, to bear witness, and to multiply so that their voices will be heard.

I feel a particular responsibility to the 94 families of Tamarindo as a citizen of the U.S.:
• a nation whose aid and trade policies and “war on drugs” have helped to shape, arm, and sustain a brutal war for over fifty years;
• a nation whose military and corporate impact on the land and the people of Colombia goes back before the conflict that created the Panama Canal and is vividly evident in extraction of the riches of the land of Colombia in mines, factories, multinational industries and corporations;
• a nation whose press project and people see Colombia through distorted fear-full lenses of drugs, guerillas, and poor who will all benefit from the progress of free trade zones…;
• a nation that does not raise it’s voice to the human rights abuses named, denounced and legally verified by Latin American, UN and Human Rights Organizations around the world, and even the highest court in Colombia.

As a U.S. citizen and I will continue to learn about, track and bear witness to what happens to the 94 families of Tamarindo. I will bear witness to our government and theirs. We prepare for our meeting with an official at the U.S. Embassy.

Tamarindo is one community among many that is invisible, silenced, displaced.

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and right relationship abide in the fruitful field. The fruit of right relationship will be peace, and the result of right relationship trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.
Isaiah 32:16-17

Every day we meet with leaders and communities working for peace and justice whose names we will remember and speak aloud more freely with their permission and after our time together so they will not be put at risk. The Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence is our host and our guide on this transformational journey.

Each and all of the students with whom I am traveling lead change in their communities and in their daily lives. Their wisdom, passion, skill, honesty, creativity and spiritual gifts amaze me and in every make connections between their work in their contexts and the work and lives to which they are being introduced here. The Social Transformation we speak about at PSR takes on context and content here.

Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for by him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible…
Colossians 1: 15-16

The text for our course, Beyond the Spirit of Empire by Néstor Miguez, Joerg Rieger, and Jung Mo Sung, is a call to reclaim theologies of liberation for this historical moment. “The only way for Empire to be eternal is to dissolve the REAL into “realism… Empire is threatened by movements that generate distinct temporality.”

The photo with this blog posting expresses the REAL. Resisting Empire requires us to value real peoples’ lives and the real limits that places on free market capitalism. Walking over the bulldozed ruins of Marisol’s home in Tamarindo, embracing her, weeping with her, praying with her are acts of resistance and faith.

We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.

-Alice Walker

We will continue to walk with the people of Colombia, bear witness, and multiply so that their voices will be heard.
Watch this blog for video links and news and ways that you can be a part of the FOR Peace Presence.
Peace is the fruit of justice.

~Odette Lockwood-Stewart