2012-2013 High school essay contest: Honorable mention

Living in a war zone is something most Americans never experience in their lifetime.  Those of us residing in the United States often lose sight of the injustices that are going on in the world around us. Ignorance is bliss; yet are we comfortable standing by as hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters are killed each year due to conflict, much of which is brought on by a lack of understanding?  Hearing about the daily fatalities in Burma due to the lack of a central government, or the hatred in Pakistan as a result of the Kashmir conflict is difficult, and striving to change these situations is even more challenging.  However, are we content to aside and not make an effort to minimize the injustice rather than take action?  Colombia has the second highest death rate each year, but since 1819, we, as North Americans, have done little to remedy the situation.  President Bill Clinton launched Plan Colombia over a decade ago, and organizations such as Mennonite Central Committee are making efforts to make Colombia a peaceful, sustainable place to live.  However, violence and hatred are still just as prevalent in the country as it was in the mid-1900’s.  Although the history of Colombia is entangled with hate and violence, we can bring hope to the despairing situation by empowering individuals and promoting justice and equality for all…

As a part of the global community, we, as North Americans, have the responsibility to step in and help our brothers and sisters in Colombia.  Two centuries is far too long for a civil war to prevail.  Too many people have died as a result of discrimination and greed.  There is no reason that so many people should have to lose their lives to protect their land or so that others can get rich off the drug industry.  Pastor Rutilio, from Peniel Mennonite Brethren Church says, “The church is called to be an instrument of change for peace and a prophetic voice for justice within communities” (“Colombian Church Gathers Children under Its Wings”).  However, it is not only the work of the church to be an instrument of change, but it is the responsibility of all people to do their part, regardless of religion, race, or background.  Not because God has called us, but because we have the responsibility to love one another, and part of loving each other is to sacrifice ourselves for the common good of mankind. Therefore, we as privileged North Americans who are capable of making change need to create a plan and act upon it – a plan that does not rely on the United States government to send in troops to contravene. Instead, we need to take a peaceful approach, because as demonstrated by the Colombian government, the guerrillas, and the paramilitaries, violence only breeds more violence.

— Excerpted from “Colombian conflict: Creating a resolution” by Natalie Thorne, Bethany Christian Schools (Goshen, Indiana), Grade 12.

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