May 18, 2012: Two communities, two very different stories of peace, by Ted Collins

May 18, 2012 by

One story from San Jose de Apartado, Colombia, South America:

After more than 40 years of civil war, the villagers of the small, isolated community of San Jose de Apartado in northern Colombia decided to declare themselves a community of peace. By doing so, they were not aligning with any military group. Instead, they just wanted to be left alone to carry on with their agrarian lives.

By declaring peace, the exact opposite occurred. One of the paramilitary groups left threatening notices, admonishing the villagers to leave. When they did not, the paramilitary group invaded and some villagers were killed and tortured.

The village became a ghost town. Eventually, with the help of outside groups, including the Colombian Presbyterian Church, some families moved back to try to rebuild.

Another story from Concordia, Kansas, USA:

A few years ago, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia worked with others in our community to declare  “A Year of Peace” project. As far as I know, no one has threatened our lives or demanded that we leave the city because of this declaration.

We have been blessed by this project. It offers all of us the opportunity to seek peace within ourselves and between neighbors. It reminds us to appreciate all we have. It provides a chance to reach out to neighbors in ways that we may not have considered.

Compared to rural villages globally, we are fortunate to be able to take for granted safe water, safe streets, abundant food and durable shelter.

Thank you, Sisters of St. Joseph, for your presence and work in our community.

 

— Ted Collins was born in St. Joseph’s Hospital (in the building that now is home to Manna House of Prayer), raised in Concordia, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, and finished his career as a School Social Worker with the Learning Cooperative of North Central Kansas. He has been part of three Colombia South America Presbyterian Church missions since 2005. He and his wife Nancy have led five Presbyterian mission trips to the Gulf of Mexico and have participated in numerous Habitat for Humanity projects in Latin America, India, Africa and Vietnam.

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