Santiago Ruiz and Oscar Quinto are two leaders in the Manantial Church of Peace and they know the context of being a church in Medellin and the local community processes. As Santiago tells it, the Gerona and Salvador neighborhoods have had difficulties as far as organizing and dividing territory.
The problems in the neighborhood are centered around the youth, addiction, theft, extortion, homicides, drug kitchens, and armed groups; all of this in very close proximity to the church.
These problems have been increasing due to the arms agreement (truces between illegal armed groups to stop attacking each other, a “peace” agreement). This pact has been very weak recently and it seems that in August perhaps it will break.
The church, upon seeing this context, this situation, has decided to wake up through different activities such as capacity building with Justapaz and a process of growth and clarification of its objectives as a congregation en the FOAP (Organizational and Action Strengthening of Churches for Peace). The church has strongly worked for three years en La Ceja, a township near Medellin, with victims of the armed conflict. Since 2012, some leaders of the church, and the previous SEEDer Jessica Sarriot, did some research. This lead to the church starting to host community forums in which people from the neighborhood have participated.
They completed an extensive analysis of the environment of the neighborhood and from this analysis they presented different work proposals. The first was that as a church we educate ourselves in a school for leaders, which has already begun, with the goal of making a positive impact in the community. The second, a more immediate response to work in the neighborhood, was to get involved in the local educational institutions in order to talk about subjects such as nonviolence, reconciliation, and the prevention of drug addiction and crime.
Also, there is work done by the Community Action Board that should be highlighted. They are also working on activities with soccer teams, always trying to include discipline and peace education; they have given food to people with few resources; they have hosted special days for vision checks.
There are many people who want to work towards peace in the neighborhood and also for peace in Medellin, and daily these people push us to continue our work as the church. And if there is one thing that is clear in the church, it is that this work is nothing if it is not directed by God.
Here is a video in Spanish with two church leaders telling us a bit about their context: