Last week I shared with you (here) how Teusaquillo Mennonite Church acted on a call to feed the homeless and make a statement about hunger and national priorities in Colombia, resulting in the miracle of feeding the hungry in the skidrow area called the Cartucho (later called the Bronx). This ministry has blessed many, and challenged the congregation to find other ways of addressing hunger in Bogotá, Colombia.
Another way Teusaquillo Mennonite Church voices concerns about hunger is by commemorating the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, Nonviolence, and Ceasefire on the 21st of September. Since our country has been at war for so many years, we choose to highlight on that day the church’s call to be peacemakers. We call the day Pan y Paz, or “Bread and Peace,” and emphasize the connection between economic justice and lasting peace. Other Anabaptist, evangelical, and Pentecostal churches have joined us to give public witness to our shared commitments through marches, walks and rallies, concerts, forums, vigils, and religious services. Maybe most importantly, we distribute bread to those who want it each year on this day. It’s hard to build a lasting peace when people are hungry.
Millions of Colombians find themselves displaced in this time of war, many of whom were once farmers. But when farmers lose their land, they also lose their access to food. Not surprisingly, anxiety over the availability of the next meal runs high. Pan y Paz is a way of bearing witness to the meaning of shalom, a holistic peace, which includes not only silencing guns and bombs, but provides food, education, health care, peaceful relations with ones neighbor, and peace with God and creation.
Pan y Paz has spread throughout Colombia, and churches all over the country now join together on September 21 to publicly witness to God’s desire for bread and peace for all. Since 2003, we have shared our simple commitment to nonviolence encouraging other citizens to join us in this holistic call to peace. These commitments are not set in religious language, so that any citizen of good will can adopt them for their own.
- I commit myself to cultivate a personal and family spirituality of love and nonviolence.
- I commit myself to respect and protect the dignity of human life in all its forms, as well as to the care of creation.
- I commit myself to practice nonviolence in all my family relations, rejecting physical, verbal, and psychological mistreatment.
- I commit myself, in love for my neighbor, to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent manner.
- I commit myself to build solidarity and to work for an alternative economy that promotes holistic and sustainable human development.
- I commit myself to not bear arms or participate in militaristic projects.
- I commit myself to place my gifts, talents, abilities, time, and resources at the service of the construction of a society of life, justice and peace through active nonviolence.
A Moment for Peace
In 2000, Teusaquillo Mennonite Church started a Moment for Peace, where we come together every Wednesday for one hour over lunch break to read scripture, pray for peace, and to reflect on current events in Colombia. After about three years of meeting, we began asking if we should end our times by sharing a simple soup together. By this time, most of those gathering, between 30-50 people, were internally displaced. Some didn’t have fare for transportation, so they walked. A number of them hadn’t had breakfast, so were hungry. This idea seemed good to us, so we started a rotation for participants to prepare soup for these gatherings. Women and men from different regions shared their cooking. They were displaced, but certainly not disabled. Being able to talk in the kitchen as they prepared the meal, laugh and creatively cook together became its own treatment for trauma. When the government permitted Mennonite Central Committee to import canned food, we added canned turkey to the meal. At the end of each Moment for Peace, we invited all the participants to stay for soup. If they had $500 pesos (about twenty-five cents) they could contribute. If they didn’t have money, we urged them to share in the meal anyway, since God is generous and gives food for all. Personal sharing, encouragement, and counseling have flowed around the table when we gather for these meals. It is here that we experience the presence of the Body of Christ.
Peter Stucky is a pastor in the Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia.