Every day as the first light breaks over the remote rural community of Basurú, Chocó, a community group gathers to broadcast the events of the coming day. Using a microphone connected to megaphones hoisted high above the hamlet on bamboo poles, the technology seems archaic; the message anything but.
Only accessible by boat on the San Juan River, the local news broadcast in Basurú is a grassroots initiative to keep the town connected – and informed – of what is going on in the world around them. A special message invites the Afro- Colombian inhabitants to pray, and be active for peace in Colombia. The bulletin reaches far beyond their locality and connects them with churches and organization across the Americas.
“From the beginning of this event, we have been witnesses to the thousands of people in Colombia, the United States, Canada and other countries in Latin America that have participated and remained united in prayer and action, locally, nationally, and internationally,” states a letter sent to the presidential candidates demanding the continued support for peace negotiations, written for the annual Days of Prayer and Action by Colombian churches.
For over eight years, ecumenical organizations in Colombia have partnered with international faith organizations to raise awareness of the Colombians working for peace, and to garner national and international attention for the need to end the armed conflict. In a land of international summits and free trade agreements, this is a different kind of global cooperation. The Days of Prayer and Action were held the first week of April.
And as spring arrives in the United States and Canada, a coalition of faith-based organizations and representatives of local churches join together to ask Colombians how they can be involved in supporting local movements for peace. What does this look like? Traditionally, churches stateside, and in Colombia, spend a Sunday reflecting on Colombia and the global ties shared between countries.
For those in the U.S it is also an opportunity to grapple with historical and present day realities. Plan Colombia has provided the Colombian government with US $6.7 billion in military funding over the last 14 years, and US $2.6 billion in development aid over the same timeframe.
The importance of including civil society for a successful implementation of an expected peace deal is part of the Days of Prayer and Action’s mission. As in Basurú, the community engages in peace building actions every day, including, but not limited to: peace education, community organizing, alternative crop projects, youth working for solutions to urban violence, and advocacy for changed policies. Days of Prayer and Action provides a chance for the international community to focus on the work of Colombians for peace and recognize this work, along with calling for a change in their own countries’ policies towards the South American nation.
The international focus extends beyond North-South relationships. On a Friday afternoon last month, an evening of reflection was held at the Universidad Javeriana, where churches, across the Protestant and Catholic spectrum, gathered to focus on their shared call to peace. A highlight of the event was the presence of two international guests: Mirta Baravalle, one of the founding members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo de Argentina and Juana Aguilera, of the Ethical Commission Against Torture in Chile. The women encouraged the Colombians present, by sharing very personal visions of peace processes and how the search for “truth” can build a successful post-conflict scenario.
A letter was also signed calling for the continuity of the current peace process, one which was delivered to the presidential candidates in Colombia before election day, May 25th. A similar letter signed by 56 interfaith leaders in the U.S was directed to Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama prioritizing the need for peace and human rights in this country.