During our orientation period we delved into some of the most divisive issues pertinent to Colombia. Our work in marginalized regions that have experienced decades of ideological violence invites us to do so. We work alongside leaders and groups that come from distinct theological and political traditions. They are very different and they often disagree, but they all identify themselves as followers of Jesus.
The Seed group is made up of people from different cultures and walks of life. They bring to the program particular perspectives and beliefs that come as result of their individual experiences. There are some people that think what we are doing in Seed is a recipe for failure. In fact, historically these kinds of group experiments, with all the diversity they imply, have not had a great track record within MCC. Conventional wisdom says that it would be easier to bring together like-minded people to work with like-minded partners. Certainly they are correct. However, learning how to work with each other and from each other amid our differences is precisely the thing we feel called to do – first as a group and then going out into our communities.
In addition to being a time of preparation and training, what we have tried to do during our Seed orientation is to create space for dialogue and reflection about emotive issues; to make room for conversations that are often avoided and polemic. We have investigated a wide range of theological perspectives and transformation strategies, even ones that can appear to be heretical or seditious. In particular, we have sought to create an atmosphere of hospitality. We are committed to making room for all kinds of voices, especially the ones that make us uncomfortable and that are most difficult to hear.
Why do we do this? We do this because we have been called to be “peacemakers” and we want to set the tone from the onset that the call to peace building is foremost about setting tables at which natural enemies gather. In following the example of Jesus, our work means setting the table for even our enemies. It means creating space where non-prescribed solutions can surge forth from across ideological divides. It means building networks of relationships between groups that have traditionally been divided by theological differences. It means humanizing enemies through creative contact. This is the essence of what we have done during our orientation and this is what we hope to do as we go out into the field. This is our vocation.
A further challenge, which is possibly the most demanding – we are also a community that is being transformed by what we seek to do. We want to be changed by it – to do so means that we take the posture of a guest. This is one of the many testimonies of Jesus. He allowed himself to be served by people who were different from him, at tables that were not his own. Isaiah prophesied this mystery when he wrote that the Messiah will be “numbered with the transgressors” (Is. 53:12). We are invited to sit at tables that will bring ignominy. Surely, we will be seen as identifying with the “other”. But in doing so, we make space for the creative power of the Holy Spirit to not only transform us but also the places of conflict where we serve.
We invite you to follow us over the course of the next two years as we host tables for others and sit at tables not our own in different regions around Colombia. We ask for your prayers. We ask for your solidarity.