When BusinessWeek gets the irony, you know it is rich. Check this headline: News Corp. Picks Board Member With Ties to Colombia Wiretaps The coverage of Uribe in the article is actually quite timid. The wiretaps in question covered not only political opponents and human rights workers, but also Supreme Court Justices and embassies of foreign governments. And in my book, it doesn't rank near Uribe's worst crimes. I'm thinking of other headlines... Scandal Plagued News Conglomerate Seeks Scandal Plagued Ex-Pol? Star Crossed Lovers Meet While Overhearing Others? What are your suggestions?
So we're headed home. After a long period of discernment, Mamie, Nora and I will be moving to Louisville, Kentucky. I've accepted a position as the Coordinator of the Young Adult Volunteer Program with the Presbyterian Church (USA), a program that has been close to my heart and sense of God's call since I became a part of it 13 years ago. But that is not what this post is about. Because to start something new, you always have to leave something behind... Here is the letter we sent out to folks in Colombia just a few days ago:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^We are grateful for the opportunity to go back to the US and be close to dearly missed family and friends. We are excited for the opportunities of new and challenging work. But we are deeply saddened to leave Colombia, and a piece of our heart will always stay here. Thanks be to God for our wide, wide family. And pray for us as we leave home.
So I'm preaching this week, which means I'm doing the usual hunting and pecking around the internet... I have a very atypical request for a short sermon (no hour long biblical excursion!) but I have found an abundance of poignant materials for this upcoming week. This weeks' Gospel texts speak very much to the suffering we all face, and God's grace in it. In the Old Testament, underneath a touching lament of the loss of friendship is a bald display of the costs of war. I'll be preaching the NT, but I believe the OT speaks to our country very much in this next week. In Dan Clendenin's I'm Already Against the Next War, he reflects on the inevitable cost of war - whether in the Samuel narrative against the Philistines or in today's wars around the globe. Far more than discussing if war is ever right,he presses for our realization that war always brings a price we can scarcely imagine. Origen of Alexandria (185–254 AD), perhaps Christianity's greatest early scholar,[offers a repudiation the violence of war, military service, and even the state itself.]
There's some good homework for us this Independence Day. the lectionary texts are hereAnd as we — by our prayers — vanquish all the demons that stir up war, and lead to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this service are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs, when along with righteous prayers, we practice self-denying disciplines and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures, and not to be lead astray by them. And none fight better for the king [and his role of preserving justice] than we do. We do not indeed fight under him, although he demands it; but we fight on his behalf, forming a special army of piety by offering our prayers to God.
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has a nice summary up on the shared ministry for peace between the PC(USA) and the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia. Read the article here:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) established its first permanent mission in Latin America in Bogota. This culminated in the first Presbyterian Church, founded in Bogotá in 1856. We continue to share in ministry with our Colombian brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus Christ. Here are ways to learn more about our partners in Colombia, the PC(USA) response and the situation in the country: [Read more]
So you might have seen that something went on in Colombia recently, although it was not likely to have been very focused on the actual goings-on of the major hemispheric meeting that took place in one of the most charming spots in the country. Perhaps it is not surprising that an international diplomatic summit can be overtaken by an all-too familiar sex scandal - but what does that show us about ourselves? There has been a lot of ink spilled over this scandal, but Juliana Jiménez at Slate's XX Factor hit it best. Read the whole thing, but here are some tidbits to get you interested...
That this happened, I believe, is a result of, and will add to, the image of overly sexualized Latin American women. The reputation Colombia has for “its women” is notorious and stereotypically sexist. Lonely Planet, for example, says of the city of Cali, Colombia: “While the city itself isn’t breathtaking, Cali famously claims to produce the most beautiful women in Colombia.” Produce. Like sugar cane or mangoes...
Distraction or not, a beautiful moment of transnational bonding took place in this scandal: both sides of the Caribbean did their part to reduce women to their sexuality and perpetuate the stereotype of the over-sexualized Colombian woman. Observers may not have been able to come to terms on Cuba or the war on drugs, but many were able to agree that the sanctity and preservation of the age-old transaction of women’s bodies and dignity deserves the utmost attention. I guess we do share some common values after all.Mamie will have some more reflections from the Cumbre de los Pueblos up soon, once the mountain of translations have been scaled...
One of the experiences that Mamie and I always go back to as one of the most transformative and life-giving to each of us is our time as Young Adult Volunteers. Of course, we met through the program, so that doesn't hurt! Through one year of service and community living, either in the US or internationally, the YAV program connects young people's passion with the desperate needs of this world. Our time a YAVs has shaped our lives permanently, and for that we are truly grateful. So when I think of the one thing I really can stand behind recommending to a young person looking at who they want to be and how they want to spend their life, their passion, and their calling, I never hesitate to suggest looking at service with the Young Adult Volunteer Program. Are you interested? Do you know someone in your family or church or circle of friends who might crave this type of challenge? Do them a favor, and pass on this invitation. It is a year of service that offers a lifetime of fruit.
Do you want to spend a year (or more) serving in mission and putting your faith into action? Are you interested in a career in non-profit or humanitarian aid? Then apply to be a YAV! The PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer program still has open spots in their domestic sites. The extended due date is next month! May 25. Check it out! http://gamc.pcusa.org/
So right down the road from us in Cartagena this weekend, most of this hemisphere's leaders are gathering for the Cumbre de los Americas - or Summit of the Americas. Obama is there, and the Castros are not - there have been no shortages of tempests in the lead up to this event. Mamie is in Cartagena at another event - the Cumbre de los Pueblos - or Summit of the Peoples. It is an alternative voice to the meeting of heads of state, a place for people's organizations, churches, unions, and academics to lift up the true concerns of the people, over and above the political niceties and formal yet flimsy statements the official Cumbre will likely result in. Below are several good reflections on some of the most important issues to be discussed at the Summit. Take a moment to read and think about these issues - our whole hemisphere is in this together... From the Washington Office on Latin America "Obama Poised To Give Presidential Seal of Approval To Gross Labor Rights Violations in Colombia" It is now widely expected that Obama will certify that the Colombia - US Free Trade Agreement is ready to be implemented at the Cumbre. This is in spite of a clear set benchmarks that have not been met. The real news here is the same as it has always been - this free trade deal favors the powerful at the expense of those without voice. And in Colombia, those without voice are often at risk of death. Here's a positive perspective on what this hemisphere's leaders could be addressing - the spate of human rights abuses throughout the region. "What Should be on the Agenda at the Summit: Protect Human Rights Defenders." (From the Latin American Working Group) And finally, here is a poem from a Colombian, reflecting on the pain of not being believed about grave human rights abuses in your own community "They Don't Believe Us." An excerpt:
Yesterday we said that they are murdering us,
cutting us into pieces, disappearing us, displacing us, torturing us, mistreating us. And they don’t believe us. That we are victims of the state. And they don’t believe us. That the army, police and paramilitaries are the same. And they don’t believe us. That many children are sobbing, for their parents are disappeared.
And they don’t believe us.