“They will build houses and dwell in; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” Isaiah 65:21
Empty houses with trees growing inside, houses without roofs, doors or windows; these are the visible signs of the violence that greatly impacted the small community of Pichilín.
A community of only 300 people within the municipality of Morroa in the department of Sucre, Pichilín is located within the Montes de María region on Colombia’s Atlantic Coast. From 1989 to 2004 the people of Pichilín were victims of the violence of various armed groups, both legal and illegal. This was a time of much suffering for the community, the violence and other actions coming in the form of threats, intimidations, forced displacement, discrimination, stigmatization and a massacre that took place on December 4, 1996 which all but tore the community apart.
Some of the older generations from Pichilín, those who remember the trauma, are determined to keep the memory alive. “We lost our freedom. We could not enter or leave our community.” “We were required to attend their meetings.” “We wanted our children to escape.” “They murdered our community leaders.”
This memory is a major challenge in the cultivation of hope, striving to make their dreams come alive again, rebuilding what has been lost and forging a future built on peace for the next generations.
“We are a community that has much hope, and that yearns to rebuild what has been lost, to not give up in the face of difficulties, and one that is beginning to come alive again. We are struggling to move forward, dreaming of a community in which we get along with each other and we have a good school, accessible transportation routes, and a working health centre; a community with the best conditions for our children.” (From community leader Nayibe Tovar)
Pichilín seeks collective reparations for the community, but while waiting for these institutional promises to come through, the community is working together to rebuild their lives and to have a better quality of life. This month, Pedro, a member of the community started to rebuild his house with the help of others from the community. Using the earnings from growing tobacco crops he was able to put on a new roof.
Lucho, also from the community is painting the walls and decorating the house. Others are putting in new floors and making the home livable again. Solidarity and the fact that everyone is using their own talents to help rebuild are signs that the community is in fact coming to life again.
Sembrandopaz (a partner of Mennonite Central Committee in Colombia) has been working with this community for the past three years, helping to develop productive projects and walking along side of the community.
Today, with the support of the Seed Program (MCC), Sembrandopaz is working to encourage the community council to address local needs. They have met and seen the necessity to develop an association for victims to partner with State organizations, and the promotion of local committees to address issues of health, housing, business, mediation and education. All of this is so that the community’s dreams will live again and because we have listened to the Word of God as we are called to be “repairers of broken walls, restorers of streets with dwellings.” Isaiah 58:12.
By Alejandra Arboleda Romero