Spirited Reflection: Somewhat Unexpectedly
On August 27th, somewhat unexpectedly, the Colombian government announced its willingness to restart peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), offering a glimmer of hope on the horizon after 60 years of protracted conflict.
Our partners’ response, as expressed in the statement of Colombians for Peace, reflected a generous sense of optimism. Their comments also urged key actors “to address structural problems at the root of this prolonged armed conflict,” including “transforming belief systems and outlawing the practices of killing and political persecution in favor of inclusion and the recognition of historic truths in authentic and dynamic democratic transition.”
The call of our Colombian partners to address structural impediments to lasting peace caused me to recall some important words from our faith story. These words from Luke’s Gospel have always stayed with me, in part because we are told that they were expressed by Jesus through his tears. The context is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. When he sees the great city, he weeps: “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41-42).
What are the “things that make for peace,” whether in Israel-Palestine or Colombia, Southern Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo? Do we recognize them? Do we seek them? Are they our deepest commitment? Our partners in Colombia remind us that the “things that make for peace” are more than the absence of violence. They are also the presence of transformed beliefs and new collective understandings, of economic justice and democratic inclusion, of realized human rights and greater equality.
This is what our global partners strive for every day. We describe their work in different ways: community development, capacity building, human rights protection, democratic development, but it might also always be called the action of peace building. Global partners entreat us to “follow after the things that make for peace” (Romans 14:19), a task as crucial in a country like ours, striving to preserve peace, as it is in countries like Colombia striving to bring an end to war. Christ’s call to us is to be peace builders through working for justice, equality and inclusion—“the things that make for peace.” Wherever we are placed, may our actions be our “amen.”