Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Living Amazon, Safe Humanity

The Amazon basin is shared by many countries in South America: Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, and Suriname). Within all of these countries, the Amazon basin is home to a number of Indigenous Peoples. Due to the increasing pressures from diverse mega-projects like highway construction, mining, mono-culture plantations, and more, these Indigenous Peoples are being pushed out of their homes. Most of these projects take place without previously consulting or gaining consent from the Indigenous communities that will be affected.

Indigenous demonstrators setting up around the offices of the Ministry of the Environment, Photo by Curtis Kline.
Last Friday, September 22, COICA РCoordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin), declared an International Mobilization in those countries. They also decided that every September 22 will be a day of international mobilization to protect the Amazon basin and the peoples who live there.

David Kawooq, member of the Colombian rock band Doctor Krapula, leading the demonstrators in some songs. Photo by Curtis Kline
In Bogota, I observed a demonstration held outside of the National Government’s Ministry of the Environment (which recently gave a green light to the practice of fracking in these territories). OPIAC (Indigenous Peoples’ Organization of the Colombian Amazon) presented a list of demands, such as inviting international human rights observers to verify the damage caused by those megaprojects, titling the traditional territories to the peoples who live there, and supporting the traditional livelihoods of the Indigenous Peoples who depend on the Amazon environment. They also connected the issues to the recent peace accords between the Government and the FARC, and the current negotiations with the ELN; stating the necessity of effective participation for all in order to guarantee a peace in the differing territories of Colombia.

The slogan of the demonstration was Amazonia Viva, Humanidad Segura (Living Amazon, Safe Humanity). 

Indigenous leaders of OPIAC, announcing their demands. They are facing the office building oft he Ministry of the Environment. Photo by Curtis Kline.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lutheran Schools in Colombia

In Colombia, there are 4 Lutheran schools. Two of the schools (El Cocuy and Paz de Ariporo) are elementary schools, and the other two are elementary through high school (Bogota - San Lucas and Sogamoso). One of the goals of the last couple of years has been strengthening how the four schools work together - sharing experiences, knowledge, and resources. This past Friday, the teachers from all the schools had a retreat, for the first time ever!
All the teachers!

It was very exciting to bring in 75 teachers from all over the country, for them to meet each other and share a day together.

Teachers from San Lucas - Bogota
We divided the group into 7 small groups so the teachers would get a chance to meet teachers from other schools. We had seven stations, each with a different activity that the groups rotated through. My station was "demostrando talentos" - showing talents! Each group had to discover the talents of the others in their group and figure out a way they could show the talents to the rest of the groups in a talent show of sorts at the end of the day. Some of the groups created little dramas, one did a group dance, one sang, and one even created a pyramid.

One of the groups at my station - making a pyramid to show their talents.

Some of the other stations were deeper - talking about the difficulties of being a teacher, or how to better communicate.
Teachers from El Cocuy
 At the end of the day there was a small gift exchange (exchanging candy bars, desserts, nail polish, and other small gifts).
Teachers from Sogamoso
The teachers all left with a renewed sense of calling to teach young people and a renewed energy to do so.  This was the first of what we are hoping becomes an annual activity.


Teachers from Paz de Ariporo (I love that they wore matching shirts!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Transformative Communities

Last Saturday, the 10th of September, we held our final workshop of this year with the congregation of the Divine Redeemer in the city of Bucaramanga. We planned a series of three workshops: the first focused on local peace-building and small daily acts; the second was putting that local peace-building into action as we spent a day at the Sustainable Farm of Rehabilitation of Antipersonnel Land Mine Victims, planting trees, learning about the work of the farm, and discussing the need to protect the vulnerable as a way of building peace.

Here is Pastor Sergio Talero, pastor of the Divine Redeemer congregation in Bucaramanga, introducing the workshop and summarizing a little of what was learned in the workshops leading up to this one. Photo by Guillermo Gil.
For this third and final workshop in the process with this congregation, we focused on how to be a transformative community. The congregation along with landmine survivors who live at the Sustainable Farm of Rehabilitation of Antipersonnel Land Mine Victims discussed the need for the local congregation to be involved in building peace in its surrounding community and city, as well as different ways to do that. We finished the workshop with a liturgy for peace-building.

During the peace-building liturgy we used the offering time for the participants to offer symbols of peace. They ranged from food and water to rubber boots (as a gift to those who live and work on the Farm for Landmine Victims). Photo by Guillermo Gil.