Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Global Ministries learns about celebration, election

Justapaz, one of the two partners of the Global Ministries Committee of the PNC-UCC and Northern Lights Region of the Disciples of Christ, is celebrating its 30th anniversary Sept. 21 to 23, said committee co-chair Mary Olney-Loyd.

To celebrate, they are writing a book and planning a three-day event. 

In a June 25 Zoom meeting, 11 committee members talked with Martin Nates, director of Justapaz, and the two UCC-DOC mission co-workers in Colombia, Alex Maldonado-Lizardi and Xiomara Cintron-Garcia about the plans and the June 19 election of Gustavo Petro as President of Colombia and Francia Marquez as vice president.

Martin was excited about the election results.

Alex Maldonado-Lizardi translates for Martin Nates.

Mary said the committee is planning to have resources available Sept. 1 for UCC and DOC churches in the region to use Sept. 21 to 23, which are Days for Prayer and Advocacy for Colombia, the 30-year celebration of Justapaz and include the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.

A sub-committee of the Global Ministries Committee is working with a national Global Ministries staff member to plan worship materials, newsletter articles and more.

“We don’t know about travel yet but are hopeful for 2023,” Mary added.

Ed Evans is preparing an edited piece on Martin’s reflections on implications of the election of Gustavo as the new president.

There are also plans for a new video about the UCC-DOC mission co-workers, Alex and Xiomara, who have worked with Justapaz virtually since August 2021 and in person since September 2021.

Xiamoro’s focus is on work around gender related to peacemaking and armed conflict. Alex’s focus is on truth telling and healing memories from the trauma after years of conflict.

Martin, who is the third director in 30 years, said Justapaz was founded as an ecumenical effort by the Mennonites to focus on public service, peace building and conflict resolution/transformation. Alex translated his comments.

We will celebrate our service to people and the world community,” Martin said.

First is to compile writings of several authors into four chapters of a book. The first chapter is on the history of peace building in Colombia. The second in a biblical/theological analysis of peace building. The third is an analysis and documentation of healing memories from the 30 years. The fourth chapter is a prophetic call and expression of hope from the peace building and political processes/solutions to the armed conflict.

The book, which documents what Justapaz has done over 30 years, will be presented at a major event in Bogota on the International Day of Nonviolence and Peace. The celebrations will include thanksgiving for and recognition of their nonviolence and peace building work, and space to work together to discuss what needs to happen and challenges in Colombia to bring about healing in the new government.

Martin said the churches and ecumenical networks will have a role in reconciliation and peace groups will explore together how to further the negotiated peace with the ELN (National Liberation Army).

“Every day will begin with biblical reflection on peace, women’s rights and the role of churches in truth telling as part of healing memories and reconciliation. There will be an ecumenical liturgy one day asking God to bless our work,” he said.

One day will also focus on the role of women in the reconciliation process, he added.

There will be round table discussions on the agenda of the new government and proposals to bring, such as an end to mandatory military service and efforts to reduce the militarism in the society.

Martin shared his reflections on the election, which he called “a historical moment”— the first time a leftist democratic movement won an election and that win expressing the desire of the country for peace.

“The traditional parties that usually win have been defeated,” he said. “They held power for generations through promoting hate, conflict and war.”

He said the new President comes from the peace movement that promoted signing a peace accord 30 years ago.

“Through that process, he gained experience in ways to end conflict through dialogue,” Martin said. “Gustavo also signed the 1991 Constitution.”

Xiamoro explained that for the first time Colombia has a woman and an Afro-Colombian as Vice President, and someone who was a victim of the conflict. The inauguration of Gustovo and Francia is Aug. 7.

“The government is still a capitalistic model of development,” said Martin, “but will address climate change, social justice for farmers and the poor, ending compulsory military service for the young generation and restoring rights of young protesters who have been political prisoners.”

The new President will also need to “lower the political polarization in the country,” he said. “Colombia feels calm and there is hope that victims’ rights and for ex-combatants to be reincorporated into society.”

Martin explained that combatants had taken up arms against the government because they had felt abandoned by political institutions.

He said that while Gustavo’s Liberal Party Alliance did not win a majority, it holds a majority with a coalition with FARC, victims and other parties in Congress that will make it possible to put in place most of the agenda, despite expected opposition from different conservative groups and big businesses.

“It’s why we need national dialogue to heal the country,” Martin said.

Asked if Gustavo had ties to guerillas in the civil war, Martin said he had collaborated with the M-19, not participating in combat or as a terrorist, but as a politician, defender of human rights and social democratic capitalist. His focus was on writing the 1991 Colombia constitution and the Peace Accords, counter to some ways he is depicted in U.S. media. He previously served in Congress and was mayor of Bogota for four years.

Martin challenged media reports that depict him in the Cold War mindsets,

For information, call 206-291-8953 or email


Pacific NW Conference United Church of Christ News © August 2022


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share