U-C: What I See

Friday, October 01, 2004

Next steps on Colombia Accompaniment

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Last week, the General Assembly Council approved the implementation of a plan for accompaniment with the church leaders and human rights workers in Colombia – with a special focus on the situation that I’ve written to you about in Barranquilla. The resolution also called Presbyterians to be in prayer for the people there, and they asked our staff in Louisville to send a letter expressing our deep concern about the human rights abuses there, with special attention to the murder of Alfredo Correa and the detention of Mauricio Avilez.

Here’s what happens next on the accompaniment piece. This week the staff from the Worldwide Ministries Division and the Peacemaking Program will meet to coordinate how they will work together. By next week, we will begin looking for volunteers who might go as part of a team for short term trips this fall. We’re especially looking for folks who have some Spanish, who may have had experience in Colombia or similar situations in the past, and who can give up two to six weeks for this kind of work.

Further, the Worldwide Ministries Division will begin looking for a person who could be placed long-term in order to do accompaniment work and coordinate delegations of Presbyterians to the country. There are a couple of people interested in this position already, but it you or someone you know fits the bill and you’re interested, you should be in touch with K.T. Okles, the recruitment person for the Worldwide office.

The job description of the short-termers will be to attend meetings and events organized by the local, ecumenical human rights committee in Barranquilla, to support the documentation work of the human rights office housed on the Presbyterian University Campus there, and to create a highly visible PC(USA) presence among other non-governmental organizations and in governmental offices in Barranquilla. The early volunteers will have to be both patient and creative as you begin to work out the details.

Our early brainstorming, yet to be firmed up, is that we are thinking that the Louisville staff will partner with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship to develop an orientation and training for the short-term volunteers. We’ve begun those conversations this week, and we’ll have to see how it unfolds.

In terms of money, I expect that most of the expense will have to be raised through local congregations and peacemaking committees of Presbyteries and Synods. Expenses in the country should be pretty low, because I’m hoping that our partners there will help us with housing and other logistical support.

This is a great example of a new way of networking and partnering in mission. Our partner in Colombia comes to us with a clear request, there’s already a country network that’s been developing among Presbyterians over the last year and is anxious to help, the staff in Louisville is anxious to be helpful and open to sharing the work with volunteers, and local Presbyterians and congregations are invited to step up.

I’ll share more as things develop. Stay tuned!

With the peace of Christ.