On Friday, November 21, MCC was privileged to hear from two of our friends from Colombia. In addition to the meeting that they spoke at, they were also able to attend several meetings on Capitol Hill.
Angelica Rincon works for an MCC partner called JustaPaz (Just Peace), which works to reduce violence and promote awareness of the problems in Colombia. Speaking to a lunch group that included representatives from MCC, the United Church of Christ, the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, and the Latin America Working Group, Angelica detailed the challenges that she and many Colombians face on a daily basis. Peace activists face very real threats that can result in sustained harassment and assassinations. While the level of violence in Colombia is not as high as it once was, it still affects a significant percentage of the population there, particularly those on the margins of society.
After Angelica had finished speaking (with translation done by MCC’s Charissa Zehr), our other guest, Jonathan Vargas, spoke. Jonathan is a committed pacifist who was subjected to abuse and discrimination at the hands of the Colombian military during a lengthy battle to avoid compulsory military service. Colombia’s constitution recognizes freedom of religion and allows conscientious objectors to be exempt from military service. The unfortunate reality is that these freedoms are frequently disregarded, and many people are not granted this exemption and face difficult circumstances as a result. Jonathan is one such person, but he has now finally been granted the exemption he deserved. Jonathan’s deeply personal story highlighted the injustices that many in Colombia regularly suffer. While Jonathan was immensely grateful for the support he had received, he noted that there were many other people in circumstances like his that have not been so fortunate.
At left, Charissa Zehr of MCC, Angelica Rincon, and Jonathan Vargas visit Sen. Casey’s office. Right, Jonathan and Angelica speak to the group while Charissa translates.