International Ministries

Living in a Culture of Violence ~ November 2015

March 12, 2016 Journal
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Living in a Culture of Violence ~ November 2015

 


 

Dear Friends,

 

The idea was born during a picnic I had organized for the dorm students, in my role as “Coordinator of Community Well-Being” at the Latin American Biblical University. Juan proposed that they should meet to share concerns about the problems their countries faced and to “think theologically” about them. I was appointed to organize the first ever “Political dinner” around the theme of violence. After a delicious potluck, we retired to the newly organized lounge and I explained that representatives of four countries would have 15 minutes each to talk, followed by 5 minutes of questions and clarifications, then we would open up to general discussion for another 40 minutes. We heard from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Peru.

 

 

The stories were heartbreaking. They spoke of living in a suffocating atmosphere of fear and mistrust that permeates every aspect of their lives. They detailed the structural violence corroding their countries: corruption, poverty, illiteracy, concentration of wealth in a few families, military repression, impunity, lack of justice. They claimed that not only were the governments not able to control the criminality, gangs, and mafias, but they participated in them and profited from them. The governments, they said, align with international corporations to steal land from Indigenous peoples to exploit petroleum and minerals. One student told of the systematic destruction of his people, the Indigenous Miskitos of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. All spoke with passion and pain. They detailed how the structural violence has provoked domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, and street crime. The pervasive impunity has motivated a vigilante justice in which criminals are burned alive by the community. The terror has forced mass migrations, breaking up families and communities.
 
What then, has been the role of the church? Surely the church has stood out against these injustices, has spoken for the poor and marginalized, has called for justice? No, it has not, they agreed. They divided the church into three groups:

  1. Those who have their head in the clouds and are heavenly bound, not to be concerned about worldly things.
  2. Those who see their opportunity and join the system, using religious rhetoric to win votes, power and wealth.
  3. Those who oppose injustice and stand for the poor. They are quickly “disappeared” by the state apparatus.

So, I have convoked them to a second meeting, coming up on Friday, November 6:

“Last night we heard stories that presented a Reign of death, violence, terror, corruption, exploitation, misery and desperation. But we belong to the Reign of Life. We need to meet again to propose a new way of understanding and practicing our faith that, like mustard seeds, can create a different reality. I invite you to bring stories of concrete actions, dreams that you have for your country, and most of all, a new theology, a new way to see life, faith and the role of the people of God. Together we can make a difference.”
 
Pray for this meeting and that these deeply committed Christians will be powerfully used by God in their countries.
 
Serving with you for God and the world,





 

 


 

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