Posted by Jeremy Sorgen
Our day of travel was, as travel often is, a time warp. We left before dawn and arrived after sundown. Stiff and sleepless, 2600 meters closer to the stars, we emerged from Bogotá’s new airport to meet our FOR host, Liza, and travel our last leg to the hotel. We strayed from the hotel a moment longer to find a corner for some street food—arepas, empanadas, bocadilllos—and then were off to bed.
7am breakfast. 730am briefing. Our other FOR host, Candice, arrived to go over the itinerary. Colombia is known for early risers and early meetings. It’s not unusual to schedule a meeting for 7am. At 830 we met with human rights lawyer, Jorge Molano, who provided us a brief history of the vastly complex political situation and then story after devastating story of the human rights abuses committed by the political Right and the so-called Left, by government actors, big businesses and—who else—the corporatocracy of the USA. When we think of Colombia, we often think of cocaine and the drug trade, a hugely profitable transnational business in which all the players eventually get absorbed. But the civil strife is also the messy story of land grabs, extraction of mineral resources, massive displacement, palm oil, petroleum, disappearings and what we might call political genocide. As a lawyer, Jorge Molano has reached a new level of despair over Colombia’s recourse to legal process due to the relatively new institution of the General Inspector, who can terminate the offices of elected officials at will, and to Colombia’s public refusal, last Tuesday, to comply with UN ordinances. “Our state of rights has become a state of the Right,” he noted.
In the afternoon, we met with Jimena of Tierra Digna, a women-run organization defending indigenous and Afro communities affected and threatened by acquisitive multi-nationals, especially in the Pacific region of Chocó. It was a similar picture of unprincipled annexation, imbalanced negotiation and the wholesale destruction of identity, homeland and habitat. But Jimena’s own example and those of whom she told gave us reason to rejoice and ways to hold the struggle with hope. Even as we march to the hinterlands of the heart, we sing the song of joy and redemption. We hold both Jorge and Jimena, their causes and communities, their spirited rebellion against forces that corrode the diverse immensity of life and cripple personhood—we hold it all in prayer.
But two days of cramped inactivity, one on the plane and the second in session, was much too much. We are happy to be traveling to the Carribean Coast where the warm climate will loosen our bodies and allow spirit to move and be moved. The deeper learning begins tomorrow.