A Glimmer of Hope: The Ecumenical Work for Peace of DiPaz

By Stephen Minnema, accompanier in Urabá in March 2019 alongside Jeff Hornbeck. 

Two encounters with an ecumenical commission called DIPAZ have bookended our month in Urabá.  We had just landed in Apartadó when our hosts asked if we wanted to go to a meeting. We said, “Of course,” and off we went to Turbo, where we found the event in progress. A number of people were sitting in a tent, eating and watching a video.  It turned out that these were all displaced families who were watching friends and relatives sharing memories of violence and loss. The goal, DIPAZ members told us, was to support families who are ready to come to terms with their past and join together in seeking a more just resolution than they have thus far found.

Regional Center of Attention and Reparation for Victims. Photo by Jeff Hornbeck

Then, days before departing, we learned that another DIPAZ delegation was forming to respond to news that a new displacement is underway and under protest.  Members of the delegation, at some risk, were hoping to initiate a dialog that could avoid violence and preserve threatened rights.

DIPAZ is an acronym for The Interchurch Dialog for the Peace of Colombia. Formed in the past few years, DIPAZ consists of representatives from the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, the Assemblies of God, the Franciscans, World Vision, several universities and others. Its stated goal is to help this country realize the hopes for peace with justice that were raised by the 2017 peace accords. The government may be pulling back but DIPAZ is not.

There are at least five reasons to have some hope that this effort can make a difference in Colombia. First, the participating bodies have come together in humble recognition that the influence they have alone cannot compare with the influence they have together. Second, the work of DIPAZ is grounded in the gospel promise that the reign of God will be a reign of peace with justice and that God is working to bring it about.  Third, the participating bodies understand from long experience that genuine healing happens when the truth is confronted, when repentance is real, when forgiveness is offered and received and when reconciliation results. (Though the government has backed off from supporting the official truth commission, the churches have sought to facilitate this process on their own.)

A family-run banana finca on four hectares (8.5 acres) of redistributed land. They sell for export through a small-holdings association. Pastor Bernardino of Currulao estimates that only 10-15% of redistributed land succeeds in viable business operations. Photo by Jeff Hornbeck

Fourth, though DIPAZ is committed to non-violence, it is not committed to passivity and is ready to challenge and/ or resist people or structures that oppose the goal of an authentic peace.  And, finally, DIPAZ understands the power of organized people and seeks wherever it can to bring the victims and their allies together so that they can find new strength in standing up for a more just Colombia.  

Though we have been deeply moved by the witness of Presbyterians in this troubled land, they would be the first to acknowledge that from this ecumenical effort shines forth a stronger glimmer of hope than any that might come from them alone. As the DIPAZ website puts it, “From ecumenism we construct a peace with justice for Colombia.”