The road to peace looks different in different parts of the world — but no matter where you are, it helps to walk the road together. Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has been invited to walk with community leaders in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia and the Centro de Atencion al Migrante “Exodus,” sending accompaniers to the U.S. Mexico border and to northern Colombia. Accompaniers listen, learn, and return home to share stories of peacebuilding.
Accompaniment begins with a long weekend of training and discernment in the U.S. At this three-day gathering, people who are interested in accompaniment gather to train in non-violence and anti-racism, engage with accompaniment principles, learn about the contexts in which we have been invited to practice accompaniment, and spend time in discernment and reflection. You organize your own travel to the Learn & Discern event; all costs are covered while you’re there (lodging and food).
Anyone who is interested in accompaniment is welcome to learn and discern in community with PPF! Are you called to accompaniment service?
Click here to find out more about our next Learn & Discern training weekend, how to apply, and requirements to serve.
“Being an acompañante is to engage in the ministry of presence. It’s not about changing, fixing, or even helping. It’s not about analyzing or diagnosing, recommending or advising. It’s about being there as wholly and fully as possible, present to God’s movement within you and those you came to stand beside.”
-Susan Webb, accompanier in Barranquilla, Colombia in 2008
PPF accompaniers have been invited to be present in two contexts globally – Colombia and Agua Prieta, Sonora (Mexico).
In 2004 the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia requested the presence of accompaniers from the U.S. to support church leaders working for peace in the midst of a decades-long civil war. PPF accompaniers have been a consistent presence since then, primarily in the Presbytery of Urabá and the Presbytery of the Coast in northern Colombia. Peace Accords were signed between the Colombian government and the FARC in 2016, but the need for accompaniment is ongoing — as our partners in the IPC say, “Peace signed is not peace realized.”
In 2019 a group of community organizations in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico requested the presence of accompaniers at Centro de Atención al Migrante “Exodus” (CAME), a migrant shelter south of the U.S./Mexico border. The cartel which controls the Agua Prieta has a practice of extorting hundreds or thousands of dollars from asylum seekers waiting at the border, and threatening violence if people don’t pay. Because CAME freely offers travelers a safe place to stay, shelter staff and volunteers have received intimidation from the cartel. The visible presence of U.S. citizens increases the safety of CAME at low risk to accompaniers.
As PPF uses the work, accompaniment means being physically present at the invitation of local partners in places where violence exists or has been threatened so that, by proximity to the power accompaniers represent, partners feel and are safer.
In 2019, PPF drafted these principles of accompaniment as we practice it.
There are three main accompaniment commitments:
✝️ Accompaniment is witness (or bearing witness):
As an accompanier, your presence has been requested because local partners believe it will increase their safety. Your presence says, “someone cares about what happens here.” Accompaniers spend one month with local partners, bearing witness to their experiences.
📢 Accompaniment is amplification (or sharing stories):
Accompaniers serve as a megaphone, amplifying the voices of people who may be silenced or ignored by those in power. For many accompaniers, this means presenting on their accompaniment experiences at their places of worship, sharing with community groups, and writing to their representatives — making sure to center the voices and perspectives of those who are building peace in their own communities.
✊ Accompaniment is advocacy (or taking action):
Wherever you serve, a key part of your work will be engaging in advocacy after your return to the U.S. This may mean writing to legislators, signing letters and petitions, or other advocacy actions suggested by global partners to move the U.S. government away from participation in violence and toward peace and humanity.