CPT in the Land of Cacao

The community of Garzal has been accompanied by various organizations, it is known by all that Pastor Salvador has a rooster that crows at unusual hours and that it is one of the challenges we find there. Because of the crowing of the rooster it is difficult to stay asleep before the sun rises. While this can be very annoying, the discomfort one feels from the crows of the roosters in the community dissipates as soon as we are spoiled by the family of the house.

Every day, very early Doña Nidia prepares a delicious coffee and her husband, Pastor Salvador takes us to the hammock and this is how a normal day begins in the life of the Christian Peacemaker Team, when providing international accompaniment to this community that is located to the south of Bolivar.

CPT is a Christian organization that began with the following question: “What would happen if the Christians dedicated the same devotion and discipline in their actions for peace that the armies dedicate in their warlike actions?” In response, CPT arrives to the countries where there are people in situations of conflict and with peace theology, confront systems of violence with public actions and advocacy. In addition, CPT also confronts the oppressor system. In other words, we have an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-classist and anti-colonialist discourse. We are clear about this with our partners and with the communities with which we work.

Part of the work of a CPTer is to be present and share in the daily life of communities

CPT arrived in Colombia in 2001 at the invitation of the Mennonite Church, given the strong context of violence in the Middle Magdalena region. Their work consists of physical, pastoral, and political accompaniment to peasant communities. That is, we are present in the community by physically being there. We sleep, we eat, we are in joint spaces, and we build a deep relationship with the community members. At the same time, it means having difficult conversations and giving pastoral support. Political support consists of building networks between the community and our donors abroad. That is why we document, publish and promote public actions and invite delegations with the purpose of amplifying the voice of the communities.

The accompanying work with El Garzal began nine years ago; I recently had the privilege of co-leading a delegation during Holy Week in the region. For three days the delegation got to know, through farm visits and talks with community leaders, such as Pastor Salvador Alcantara, the history of resistance that they have lived. The community has received threats of displacement and death by Manuel Henrique Barreto, a drug trafficker already known for the land grabbing in the Montes de María. The lawsuit guaranteed the community the possession of the lands, but there are still no titles. This generates great anxiety and fear because of the possibility of still losing their lands. Meanwhile, the community produces strongly with the cultivation of cocoa and other crops.

The community continues to work and does not lose hope that they will legally have these lands as their own. The peasant farmers know that the struggle is not over and we as CPT know that we must continue to accompany them. But we have the dream that very soon our visits will not be to offer accompaniment, but rather to continue sharing our lives, our struggles, plenty of coffee, lots of laughter, and of course, to discuss Pastor Salvador’s singing rooster.

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