Ominous thunder clouds, heavy security and cold, driving rain—none of these kept hundreds of UCC members from making their voices heard in Washington, D.C., during the weekend of April 19-22. They came to express concern about global economics, the expanding war against terrorism and the growing U.S. military presence in Colombia. All were motivated by faith, and many had deeply-held reasons for being there.
Betty Massoni, a UCC member from First Congregational UCC in Corvallis, Ore., made the cross-country trip to participate in the national Colombia Mobilization. Last year, she traveled to Colombia as part of a Witness for Peace delegation.
"What brings me here [to Washington] is Colombia," she said. "After being there, I can't not be here. People there, who suffer from violence and poverty, ask you to pray for them. They also look at you and ask you to talk to the U.S. Congress and the president, and let them know how U.S. foreign policy is hurting people in Colombia.
"I met a woman from Sincelejo who had lost family members in massacres perpetrated by paramilitaries. Her eyes were lifeless. There was just so much loss. The faces and the voices, they always stay with you."
Visitors packed the UCC Justice and Witness Washington office prior to Saturday's peace march. They spanned generations, but shared a common belief that escalating military action would not address the root causes of violence and terror.
On Sunday, nearly 400 people gathered at First Congregational UCC in Washington for an interfaith worship service. Powerful words and music stirred the worshipers. Several Colombian peace activists spoke about their sources of hope and power in the midst of violence and terror. Hector Mondragon, an economist and peace worker from Colombia, recalled the 37th chapter of Ezekiel. "They have turned my country into a valley of dry bones," he said. "But it is the joy of faith that keeps us going."
Peace advocates took to the streets early Monday morning in an unpermitted march from the Washington Monument to the Capitol, calling for an end to U.S. military aid to Colombia and an end to aerial fumigation of coca fields. Betty Massoni was among the marchers. In the cold morning drizzle she reflected: "Hector says the joy of faith keeps us going. That faith certainly challenges my comfortableness. We may feel powerless as U.S. citizens, but compared to people in Colombia, we have much power. We have to use it."
Sandra Sorensen is Associate for Media and Communications Advocacy in the Washington office of Justice and Witness Ministries