“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20
How does one condense two months of smells, flavors, colors, and experiences that mark our lives and teach us to see life from other points of view?
Seed’s orientation time has been a time of transformation, both individually and collectively, that began in Bolivia in the city of Santa Cruz and continued in Bogotá, Colombia. At the beginning of October, I arrived in Bolivia with prejudices towards the people from the United States, for the exploitation that their government, in consensus with our own, has done to Latin America. At that time I did not know that I was going to end up sharing a room with a “gringa.” There really was nothing about her that bothered me, but it was really hard for me to talk with her – not because of the language (because her Spanish, I must admit, even though it has a strange Argentine accent, is very good), but rather because just seeing her made me think of the military support from the USA toward our government that has enormously fortified its military capacity in itself, bringing with it the intensification of a war that we have suffered for more than fifty years. I thought about our farmers who, in spite of their many agrarian strikes, have not successfully stopped the free trade agreements that threaten their survival; and I felt a profound rejection, not towards her, but rather for what her flag represents for my country, for the countryside in Colombia, in general, for Latin America.
The orientation began with the Biblical basis of the theology for peace, a call to commit ourselves to nonviolence from our Christian faith – a challenging message that made me think about my faith, which is based on God’s love and Christ’s teachings. How does one love his or her neighbor in a system of profound inequality in which the privileged and the oppressed both exist?
Recognizing our realities and the differences in the worlds from which we each come helped us to think critically about the established social order, to understand the effects that national and international policies have on the local life of the popular sectors, and to be able to be cable of asking ourselves what is our role in this story that is constructed as we walk. It helps us to have the conviction that we are not going to help the communities, but rather that we are going to walk with them, because we are mutually committed to this process of liberation, in which perhaps we will learn more than what we can give.
In my life, I have fought against prejudices and discrimination; however, these ideas seemed to me to be something far away, something strange, as if they only applied to the story of someone I didn’t know. When I entered Seed, I could see my heart and recognize that the class system, the barriers that exist, were not outside, but also were inside me. If I want to work for the construction of a more just world, where in addition to being about living a life of dignity, I should start by opening my heart to see the other person, no matter what language, nationality, religion, and political party they pertain to, since that person is made in the image of the God of life.
When one lives in a country at war, one learns to distinguish between the left and the right. When one lives in a country at war, violence becomes natural, while the capacity to love, forgive, and value human dignity of someone who thinks differently runs out because we forget that life’s riches are not in equality, but rather in diversity.
This amazing wealth is what the SEED group has taught me to value, learning to love them despite whether they were from the United States, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Peru, or even Nicaragua (even though they will not give us back the ten thousand kilometers of sea, hehehehe); to love without having our nationalities be an obstacle; to love – even though we believe in the same God – having many differences theologically; and to love even though we don’t understand the words the other speaks, but with the profound conviction of needing the other in order to be transformed and with this same love, to work towards the construction of peace that we always talk about together and teach, but that we rarely show in our relationships.