What am I thinking about this week? Resistance. Now before you call me a socialist and tune out for the rest of this post, please take a moment to hear me out. Resistance has been a common theme of the past several days for me, in a variety of ways.
On Saturday, I went to an area of Bogota called Suba (to see a picture taken from the spot where we met with a beautiful overlook of Bogota, see below) to meet several girls from a group which CEPALC works with. They spent some time explaining to me what they’ve been doing over the past 5-ish years with CEPALC, then they asked me some questions about the US (some of which I had a REALLY difficult time answering – “how is life in the US?”, for instance), and later the staff member of CEPALC asked them if there was anything that they’d like me to do since I’m here for so long. One of them said “I want you to tell them [your family and friends and people back in the US] that Colombia isn’t all violence and war and drugs and such. I want you to tell them the good things that you’ve encountered, too.” I replied, “I’d love to.” And isn’t this really what I’m here for? It’s a sort of resistance; it is a means of resisting the dominant narrative of what Colombia is…it isn’t as simple as being a dangerous country which is best avoided because of the violence committed by paramilitary and guerrilla organizations. It’s a beautiful country, full of wonderful people, and great food. In fact, when someone asked me on Sunday what I haven’t liked about Colombia, it took me a while to think of the fact that the strong rain is a bit difficult, and being so geographically far from my friends and family in the US has been difficult at times. These moments really reminded me of my calling…resisting the dominant narratives.
Speaking of resisting dominant narratives, I also had an interesting conversation on Sunday with a man (from the US) who came to my church (see picture below). Anyway, I was explaining why I’m here and what I’m doing, and I launched into my explanation of how The UMC is really working to resist the dominant narrative of how missionaries have acted historically; The UMC does not wish for its missionary work to be like the historical oppressive missionary work, in which the missionaries were part of the process of colonialism and imperialism, spreading the values of the empire. Instead, The UMC wants its missionary work to be a ministry of solidarity and accompaniment; Ministry WITH people rather than ministry to people or for people. We work with the local communities to bring about sustainable and lasting change. And this resists the dominant understanding of what missionary work is and what its purpose is.
Then Monday came. As many of you were probably aware, Monday was the holiday known in the US as Columbus Day. In Colombia, and in many parts of Latin America, it is known as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race), and in some cases it’s celebrated as a counter to Columbus Day, celebrating the resistance of indigenous peoples both during and after the conquest. Anyway, I don’t have too much else to say on this subject, other than that was another form of resistance which I was reflecting on this week, though if you want some good reading that is very tied to the subject, I’d recommend Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, by Eduardo Galeano.
Finally, yesterday, I went to do a workshop with a group of teenagers in the same area of Bogota where I went on Saturday: Suba. After talking for a while on human rights and the ways that they are enacted (and violated) in daily life, I was asked for some advice on how the teenagers I was talking to could work against these violations, especially since sometimes they are incredibly entrenched in the system, and an individual’s ability to change a system can sometimes seem like a far cry. However, I recommended to them that they should practice what I would refer to as daily acts of resistance; they should treat the people around them with respect, they should work to fight against the injustices of the systems they find themselves up against simply with their daily actions. They are the resistance against those systems.
And I guess, in a way, we’re all the resistance. If we choose to participate in this revolution of love that we’ve been called to as Christians, as human beings, or however we feel called to the revolution (or in my case and a fair number of your cases, the revolUMCion), we will be part of the resistance against the forces of injustice and violations of human rights which, in many ways, plague our world. So join me, join us; be the resistance, be the revolUMCion!