We are thankful to our RCWP in Cali, Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez for this testimony of what is happening in Colombia currently. We see that teachers are barely paid a living wage for teaching classes of up to 50 students, schools are literally falling apart and there are often no basic materials for the students. We also learn from Rev. Maria Elena that FECODE (the Teacher’s Union) members are protesting in the streets and that their leaders have received threats on their lives and been violently attacked. This is consistent with the experience of our Rev. Maria Elena Sanchez Mejia also originally of Cali, but here now as her life too has been threatened for advocating for the rights of the Afro-descendents of the Playa Renaciente Community. We also see in YOUtube videos the massive protests of the people of Buenaventura where, as Rev. Maria Elena says there is now no potable water, and also unemployment is more than 60% with most of the people living in extreme poverty, We can see on Youtube that many of Afro-Colombian descent are at the forefront of this fight for human rights. Instead, On our TV’s we see the US President meeting with the President of Colombia who assures us all is well there. The Colombian Government response to these massive protests and strikes is that the Government has no money. Because there is not really freedom of the Press in Colombia we do not hear or see the truth in the USA. Rvda Maria Elena also shares that the health care system is in chaos and sorely lacking and she has had an acute infection in her arm that should have been seen two months ago. As a low paid Maestra in a primary school she can not afford high cost private health care. She asks our prayers for Colombia, especially for the poor, the students and teachers, and those of African descent and other indigenous and marginalized groups.
I also add this important corroborating link from Rvda. Olga Lucia Alvarez, ARCWP bishop residing in Medellin and Bogota: One can translate to English using your computer’s translation system: Rev,. Olga Lucia also says that they can not see peace in Colombia, but do see the selective assassination of leaders! “Por donde mires, no se ve la PAZ en este país.
Lo mas preocupante el asesinato selectivo de los lideres!!!”
Also Rvgda. Olga Lucia cites this article on the Roman Catholic Bishops of Colombia’s Pacific Coast urging the President of Colombia to recognize and honor pacts with the people of Buenaventura and Choco. It is good to see the Church siding with the poor in this struggle.
We suffer with our sisters in Colombia as they witness this extreme poverty and often violent suppression of human rights. We know with them that the middle class and above there may experience another more prosperous and peaceful Colombia, but in standing with the poor this is their daily view. I was with Pastor Marina Teresa yesterday and she showed me the Youtube videos of the military suppression of the protesters. In one, a small baby was killed as the mostly Afro-Colombian descended protesting crowd in Buenaventura was held back forcefully with full military response. Our hearts are with all of our women priests in Colombia and with Marina Teresa as she weeps from knowing this violence personally and sees it so graphically on YouTube. She says it is like PTSD for her seeing this brought her own threats and persecution back and she became depressed. Yet, she was able to pray and is in church today gathering her strength again.
In Solidarity, and love and prayers, Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP