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A call for just peace in Colombia

Amanda Guldemond
September 12, 2008

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Church and faith based organizations throughout Colombia will celebrate Pan y Paz, or Bread and Peace, on Sept. 21, the United Nations designated International Day of Peace, Nonviolence, and Ceasefire.

Churches use different events to draw attention to the need for people to think about the connection between peace and hunger, poverty and economic injustice. Colombian Mennonites will take to the streets, handing out literature and bread to passers-by.

"Bread and Peace is an event that gives Colombian churches an opportunity to publicly express the importance of peace and economic justice for their community and country. Many churches that participate in 'Bread and Peace' make peace and justice-related work a year-round focus," said Shalom Wiebe, national coordinator of the effort.

Some two-thirds of Colombia’s population lives in poverty and severe economic inequality, which exacerbates the decades-long armed conflict that continues to claim lives and terrorize residents.

MCC and Colombian churches invite those in Canada and the United States to take part as well. "Stand in solidarity with your Colombian brothers and sisters and be a voice in your own communities and countries, calling for a just economic distribution and peace for Colombia and the rest of the world," Pan y Paz organizers urge in a letter to Canadian and U.S. churches.

Bread and Peace events were first held in Colombia in 2002. This year approximately 36 separate events will take place in major cities and rural areas across Colombia.

Activities include all-day prayer vigils, workshops, forums, peace festivals and marches.  There will also be concerts, theater, Biblical reflections, films and the sharing of bread and literature on peace and nonviolence.

Churches have been motivated by Pan y Paz day to establish programs that respond to their members' daily needs and this has strengthened the identity of the Christian church in Colombia as a peace church.

Over the years the Pan y Paz celebrations have become increasingly more ecumenical. Last year 39 events took place with the participation of around 90 separate congregations from 25 different denominations. An estimated 11, 000 people participated in the celebrations.

The words of an organizer for a Pan y Paz event in a Mennonite church capture the Colombian church motivation, "We consider that as a church we have a great mission: to work towards the construction of peace in our country. We live in a violent country, (the) reason for which we need to advocate and promote peace in our society.  We are called to be peace makers."

Colombian brothers and sisters invite Canadian and U.S. congregations to remember their brothers and sisters in Colombia, to plan Pan y Paz events, to pray for peace and economic justice in Colombia and to speak out to their governments about the need for peace in Colombia.

"Let us stand together as we all work towards bringing the gospel of peace to the world," organizers urge.

To learn more about Bread and Peace see mcc.org/us/washington/issues/latinamerica/breadpeace.html

To learn more about MCC’s work in Colombia, go to mcc.org/colombia.