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Sanctuaries of Peace
WHERE THE VISION COMES FROM
Historically, Colombia has been one of the world’s most violent nations. This violence, in its multiple manifestations, has affected all sectors of local, regional, and national life. Today, countless Colombian families endure the pain of violent conflict without seeing any clear direction to hope and peace.
Yet in the midst of the complexity, the tears, the misery, the hunger, and the injustice, many communities have felt the call to solidarity.
Individuals, churches and institutions have been engaging in gatherings for discernment around this call to solidarity. It is the call of Jesus Christ to his people to respond to the pain, to the cry of a suffering people, and to the need for a message and for actions that offer alternatives of hope. In this context the vision of Sanctuaries of Peace emerges from and for the Church as a proposal for reflection and action.
WHY THIS VISION?
Jesus Christ has shown the world his Gospel of peace, and we have understood it as a Christian alternative to violence. We have understood that we are called “not to the heroic life of strong men and women, but to a community of brothers and sisters in which men and women give testimony to the Lord whose Spirit lives in their midst through life together, through forgiveness and mutual reconciliation, through fraternal admonishment, and through the joyful willingness to share the other person’s burdens. It is a community which defines itself in terms of those who give their lives one for the other (I John 3:16).”
This call to be a seedbed for a Christian alternative to the violence in our country implies presenting Jesus as the mediator of a new pact among Colombian men and women, and from there to develop and offer as a service the gifts, talents and ministries that we have inherited from our forebears in the faith.
WHAT IS A SANCTUARY OF PEACE
In the Old Testament, the Temple and selected cities were designated as refuge where people being persecuted could be protected from death, places where they could receive consolation and encouragement. In the history of Christianity, there are examples in which this idea has been put into practice. Here we share what a Sanctuary of Peace could be in Colombia:
It is a people, filled with the Spirit and using their gifts, talents and ministries, who receive persons affected by the material and spiritual war in our country, affirming them in the Gospel of peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and seeking their personal, family, spiritual and social recovery, and their holistic redemption in God.
It is a message of nonviolence that discerns the times from the perspective of the Gospel and calls to the repentance of the Kingdom. It fosters the formation of people for a peaceful and reconciled life, and for the nonviolent transformation of conflicts. It promotes conscientious objection to military training and practice. And on the basis of these initiatives it rebuilds the social fabric of our country.
It is a physical space or a territory of peace that proclaims itself publicly so and expects to be respected from all violation by force. It makes possible face-to-face encounters among opponents, debates and public discussions, and times of prayer and reflection where all those who wish can feel safe and protected. It is a refuge for people persecuted for their convictions or affected by violence and injustice. It is a place of protection under the care of the community of faith.
WHAT TO DO AS CHURCHES
As churches in Colombia we are considering what needs to be done. We also want to build to build on the worldwide presence of churches and their institutions, and together discern before God and as a church what it means to be a Sanctuary of Peace. Here we offer some possible lines of action for sisters and brothers outside Colombia:
· Dedicate a Sunday service to Colombian sisters and brothers, and have periods of prayer and fasting.
· Collect special offerings and mobilize resources for nonviolent peace efforts being carried out by churches and church institutions in Colombia (II Cor. 8:8).
· Sponsor and promote exchanges and links of solidarity among persons from your country and Colombia as a way of broadening the relationships at local church levels (Acts 16:9).
· Organize groups of friends of the Colombian peace process and initiate a reflection in the church congregation or other church settings to consider sister relationships among congregations, among young people, among women, among refugees affected by war in different countries, and with other groups which support peace processes in Colombia (Prov. 17:17; II Timothy 1:16-17).
· Hold meetings to identify the different dimensions of the social conflict in Colombia and the possible relation to the policies and the social and economic situation of your country.
· Support actions that call attention to injustice; gather signatures, inform the public, pressure your government
· Plan opportunities for reflection and action on topics of justice, human rights, forgiveness and reconciliation. Offer your church facilities to host encounters for recognition, reparation and reconciliation among victims and offenders in your own communities (Rom 5:11, II Cor. 5:18-20).
· Carry out actions of solidarity to support those Colombians, young and old, who seek nonviolent alternatives to military recruitment for serving their country (Mt 5:38-47).
· Obtain up-to-date information and proposals for action from organizations documenting legislation in your country that is pertinent to Colombia. Support your denominational office that witnesses to your government, and seek its orientation for action.
· Collaborate with other groups in your country that support the peace process in Colombia (Mt 5:9).
· Share this vision with others, church-related and secular.
· Send us your ideas for action so that we can share them with other churches.
Centro Cristiano para Justicia, Paz y Acción Noviolenta,
Avenida (Calle) 32 No. 14-42
Santa Fe de Bogotá. Colombia
“SANCTUARIES OF PEACE”
A VISION FOR A MESSAGE OF PEACE AND ACTION FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
--a proposal being jointly developed by Colombian churches and their institutions under the guidance of the Spirit to be lived out today and in the new millennium.
AN INVITATION AND A PROMISE
We live in times of danger, and as Christians we are not exempt (Jeremiah 45:1-5, John 16:33). This is an invitation to recognize that God has placed us in Colombia in these times to help, to bring the message and action for salvation (Esther 4:12-13). Our Lord Jesus Christ goes before us, and he invites us to follow him (Hebrews 12:1-3).
The promise is that the Lord is with us. The Lord has overcome the world (John 16:33). The promise is that “in days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established…nation shall not lift up sword against nation…and no one shall make them afraid….” (Micah 4).
 Driver, John. El Evangelio, Mensaje de Paz (The Gospel, Message of Peace), free translation.