Peacemaking, Solidarity and Mining Corporations

As some of you may know, I’ve been working in Barrancabermeja, Colombia with Christian Peacemaker Teams since January 5. I’ve been writing regularly about my work here on my blog for the Mennonite, but I thought it was about time I wrote something here on YAR.

CPT’s work here in the Magdalena Medio has changed quite a bit since I was last here 3 years ago. At that time our work was still mainly focused on the Opon, an area where paramilitaries and guerillas threatened the civilian population as they vied for control. CPT’s work there has focused on a physical presence as a deterrent to human rights abuses, threats and killings by armed groups. CPT Colombia continues to accompany the Opon, but has also broadened it’s accompaniment to include other communities in the Magdalena Medio region.

The region is rich in resources including oil and the largest gold deposits left in South America. This means it is also a major target for multinational corporations and their proxies the Colombian government and paramilary groups. Communities across the region are finding ways to nonviolently defend their rights and their land. Today, CPT is accompanying many of the communities where that conflict is the hottest.

CPT’s accompaniments include the Miners zone
in the south of the Bolivar province. A few weeks ago I did a day long accompaniment of some of the leader of the gold miner’s federation (FEDEAGROMISBOL) as they left the zone to return to Barrancabermeja. Leaders of the federation have been under threat since the Colombian military killed Alejandro Uribe, one of their leaders in September 2006. The federation is an attempt by small scale miners that are organizing themselves to resist the Colombian military’s attempts to displace them to make way for large multinationals like AngloGold
. CPT’s accompaniment has included a physical presence in the zone as well as accompaniment in negotiations with the government. What does this accompaniment look like on a day to day basis? It varies quite a bit, but here’s one story that shows how CPT helped to create a space for the mining federation: COLOMBIA: For the Right to a Dignified Life and Permanence on the Land, Part 2

Other accompaniments in the region include the communities of Micoahumado, Garzal and Tiquisio (links are to CPTnet stories on each community). Each of these communities have made decisions to organize themselves and stand up to armed groups and CPT is supporting them in that effort. It’s work based on solidarity, not an attempt to come in and "fix" things. It’s not peacemaking as you might traditionally think about it, but I belive it’s work that is on the cutting edge of Christian witness to the powers.