Leaving with more questions

After our three visits to the ETCRs, a couple of the lingering questions in my mind are:

“What is reconciliation?” and “How do these communities move forward?”

With such a long history of civil war, and with decades of pain, hurt, and death that have affected a large portion of society, what does it look like to be reconciled?

When people have experienced violence or committed acts of violence, what is justice? We have heard it several times, “without justice, we can’t have peace.”

Mural in one of the ETCR communities – the caption says:

At the moment, justice seems to be missing from the peace process.

We have had the opportunity to hear many stories of the ways in which the Colombian government is not fulfilling the Peace Accord agreements. Without this support, especially regarding land access and ownership, is it possible for ex-combatants to be fully reincorporated into civil society and create sustainable lives for themselves? For the population who experienced violence from ex-combatants, what repair is needed for reconciliation?

After our visits and hearing these stories, I have a better understanding that the situation here is more complicated than what we might learn in the United States. By walking along with those who were named “terrorists” by my own government and looking into their eyes, I  was in touch with the humanity of those whose stories we never have a chance to hear. For me this doesn’t diminish or condone the deep hurt and violence that some have caused to others. But it does provoke us to inquire who is telling the story. What truths are not getting told? 

At the moment, I feel tension within myself. I feel frustrated that promises are not being kept and that people are living in this limbo of injustice and inequality. I also feel frustrated because it seems so difficult for the truth to be told. Another part of me feels hopeful. Many of these ex-combatants came to the ETCRs with so little and have started building a community that is fighting for peace through nonviolent ways. I feel hopeful as I witness many people and organizations dedicated to walking this journey with the ex-combatants.

Although I’ll be leaving Colombia with more questions than I came with, I am grateful for the opportunity to be present with brothers and sisters working toward peace.

Written by: Rev. Joey Haynes

PPF Activist Council Member and University Chaplain at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina.

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