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Archive for August, 2018

I write these thoughts from the country of Colombia. I have been conducting seminars on a Gandhi, Jesus and Conflict Transformation in two cities- Medellin and El Bagre. During this time, I have spent time with amazing groups of young people who have had to deal with the aftereffects of much violence in these parts of Colombia. These are young people who have lost their fathers. Many have been displaced from farmlands. They now live in shanty towns on the hills surrounding the city of Medellin, and in El Bagre. Many girls and boys talked about much abuse that they have suffered and abuse their friends have suffered.

Colombian cities are divided into socio-economic classes. These range from 1 to 6, or some people classify them from 0 to 7. The 0 and 1 level people are below the poverty line. They usually belong to the indigenous communities of South America, or the descendants of African slaves, and the people displaced by 30+ years of violence. The 6 or 7 class categories are the richest and the most powerful. These come from the descendants of the Spanish people.

The poor are poor because of years and years of armed conflict between the drug lords, the army, and the paramilitaries. The people who suffered the most were the villagers, and the farmers. These were the ones who were killed, and their villages wiped out.

I spent much time in training young people from the 0 and 1 classes of society to bring about a peaceful change in society. They are called Peacemakers.

I fell in love with these amazing young people from the most destitute and poverty-stricken sections of society. They reminded me of my own upbringing among the poverty stricken outcaste and low caste sections of society in the New Delhi slum.

The Bible constantly reminds us that God has always chosen the poor, destitute, and powerless people’s groups. These have always been the people’s groups who have become followers of Jesus.

In his mission statement, from what could well have been Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah text, Jesus proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

This was the mission statement of his disciples, as they went to proclaim the Good News from one city to another.

Corinth was one of those cities. It was divided between the rich and the poor. The poor were always the immigrants and the people who had suffered the most at the hands of the different warring factions. In this context, Paul exclaims, “Has not God chosen the unknown, the inferior, and the despised in the world; the people who are treated with contempt and are regarded as nothing; people who are the weak of the world!”

The opposite of these were the well-known, who-is-who of society; the superior castes and classes; the most desired people; the people treated with much regard and awe; the rich and the powerful.

Sadly, this latter group of people were responsible for much violence against the former.

In Medellin and El Bagre, Colombia, I saw the result of this terrible calamity.

This is the context of the Peacebuilding Youth teams which I taught. The young people of the Covenant churches in both these cities are courageously seeking to do much to bring healing and peace to the girls and boys of the weak and the displaced people of these cities. They are given the opportunity to play soccer together to learn peaceful methods. These girls and boys discuss ideas to build peace and non-violently oppose sexual and physical abuse. They go from door to door in the shanty towns in their shantytown neighborhoods and spread this message of justice and peace.

Many times, I was in tears listening to the stories of these girls and boys. Yet, it was so awesome to see the courage of these young people to bring about lasting change in society. They told stories of how this girl or that boy- their friend, has found Jesus, and has come out of dependence on drugs, and is on the road to recovery.

These are the weak and the powerless that God has chosen to bring his message of peace and salvation to the world!

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