Angustia y Zozobra: Reflection on the Peace Accords

This accompanier report was written by Stephen Minnema, accompanier in Urabá with Jeff Hornbeck, March 2019.

Angustia y Zozobra. These words were used in a report to the Presbytery of Urabá to describe the feelings in the church about the current state of Colombia as its government backs away from implementation of the peace accords and assassinations of social leaders continue. The first word means anguish or anxiety. The second word is new to me and has a literal meaning of “capsize” and a metaphorical meaning of “worry.”  We are worried, it seems, that the ship we are on is going to sink. And, in this case, that means a return to the violence that has racked this country for so long and caught so many in its crossfire.

Steve and Jeff with Pastora Magalis in Morindó.

We would be remiss if we did not report that we have encountered these feelings in just about every conversation that has reached any depth.  The Colombian people understand in their bones that you cannot build a lasting peace without justice. Just days ago we talked with a woman who described the loss of her father and of her family’s ancestral lands in the violence of the mid 90’s. “There is no justice here,” she said with glistening eyes. “And that is what worries us.”

The morning after this conversation I happened to read in Luke 18 about the importunate widow and the hard hearted judge.  What occurred to me as I pondered this text was that Jesus’ context in first century Palestine has a lot in common with Colombia today.  In both cases, the powerful square off against armed resistance (which they ultimately crush) and the poor, caught in the middle, lose. So what in such a context does it mean that Jesus tells a story in which he sides with a poor woman who will not let go of her demand for justice while the hard hearted judge could care less and only relents to stop her pestering?

Accompaniers participate in Bible study and signing in many churches like this one. It is in churches and contexts like this one where people often talk about their hopes and anxieties for the future of Peace in Colombia.

It certainly means, for one thing, that Jesus would encourage the woman we talked with to keep pressing her case.  And behind such urging is surely Jesus’ confidence that the God he serves, and not the impenitent potentates who seem to be in charge, is the real Lord of history and will one day lift up the lowly and send the rich away empty.  But surely this passage also means that those who claim to follow Jesus will take their stand with those who suffer injustice and press their case with them.

The Presbyterians of Colombia have committed themselves to just such a stance and it is our privilege to witness it and even to join them in it.  John Calvin is held in honor down here. So I’ve been remembering something he wrote in a commentary: without anxiety hope does not come alive. Perhaps the painful zozobra here can help us all to recover in a more vital way the sure hope of Jesus, not for a God who will give us peace in heaven but for a God who will bring justice to the earth.