Colombia : Our experience in the ecumenical circle of women who are builders of Peace

"Understanding the mission as a dialogue of life leads us along new paths where the encounter with diversity surprises us. Thus, we take the risk, in fidelity to the Gospel, of sharing a path with those who care for life…That conviction makes a real inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue possible…" 2011 General Chapter

THE STORY: In 2008, 76 women from all parts of Colombia, belonging to different Churches (Mennonites, Methodists, Presby-terians and others) came together with the aim of developing a process of integration that would make it possible to join forces in the quest for Peace with Social Justice and Human Rights. This initial meeting was to take the first steps in a dynamic of ecumenical encounter and sharing from the outlook of women of faith, attached to a Church. 
We began to participate four years ago and, at the present time, three Little Sisters are involved: Blanca Marina Rojas, Luz Marina Londoño and Hilda Coronado. 
With the aim of revitalising the sharing and maintaining the dynamic of these meetings at regional level, this mission has been confided to some of the participants, known as the ’steering committee’, who facilitate the promotion, evaluation and "extension" of the work that is proposed. 
It was decided to have these National Meetings every year. In them the methodology of a "facilitated dialogue" and the principles of ecumenical relations is developed. The leaders of the different regions of Colombia participate in these meetings. 
At the third and fourth meetings, the step was taken to form ecumenical groups in the different regions, seven in all, with the participation of approximately 200 women. 
At the fifth meeting we felt the need to undertake a formative process that would prepare us to make a contribution to the transformation of conflicts, to influencing and building peace. At the sixth meeting we worked on the implementation and strengthening of the Ecumenical Circles. 
Our Mission: As women who believe in Christ, we reflect, pray, and celebrate; we receive training and join forces in our efforts for peace; we exert influence in our Churches and/or in the groups with which we work, in processes of transformation based on social justice and human rights. 
Ecumenical Circles: The Word circle speaks to us of equality in participation, of sharing, of seeking together, of the value of perceiving with our heart and our reason, of feeling that we are all important and we are all called to give and to receive; it speaks to us of embrace, of closeness, of encounter etc. 
The ecumenical circles for women arose out of the workshops, in which we saw that it was important to: 
  • Strengthen the ecumenical relation and experience between Evangelical and Catholic women: this would enable us to make a concrete contribution in defence of life. 
  • Promote and provide material for occasions when we can share what unites us and turn our differences into a common treasure. 
  • Share our faith in Christ and work in our Churches and the places where we are in the quest for Peace with social justice and the defence of human rights in Colombia. 
  • Strengthen and qualify ourselves in the anthropological, theological and gender dimensions, seeking and bringing about transformations in the family, social and ecclesial contexts. 
When we began, the differences between us Evangelical and Catholic women were obvious in our manner of praying, of looking at reality and of thinking. Gradually, relations between us became stronger as we learned to enrich ourselves from our differences, to let go of prejudices and resentments, to feel that we are daughters of the same Father and to welcome one another as such. 
We have learned to work together, to pray, to celebrate and to encourage one another. The Word of God and daily reality are two important spaces for us. At each meeting we pray a text in both a colloquial and an exegetical way. We enrich one another during the prayer with an exploration of the Word using the different theological interpretations and insights. We feel that we have advanced along this path and now it is a joy to meet together because we know that something new is coming into being through us. We recognise one another as women who are filled with enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, for the Gospel and for the victims of violence. 
Our operations structure has a steering committee that meets every month, planning the meetings, reviewing the commitments and planning the activities to be carried out in the course of the year. In the regions where these circles exist we have held workshops to provide training for the transformation of conflicts, for exerting influence at the socio-political level, and for building peace. 
The circles meet every fortnight, with a time for prayer, analysis of the social and political situation and for describing what is happening in the places where we are. Gradually, we have been involved in actions to exert pressure: participating in protest marches, in prayer vigils, joining with other networks or organisations: the Ecumenical Table for Peace, the group Women of Thought, Peace and Security, joining forces in the quest for a country at peace. 
In May, we participated in the Ecumenical Forum for peace, and we committed ourselves to support the conclusions with regard to ethics, inspection, ecumenism, with concrete actions. 
At the Ecumenical Table, they count on our contribution and commitment. We, Little Sisters of the Assumption, have been enriched by our participation in this group that has opened windows by which we can understand that, through our difference, we can unite to share our faith, renew the social tissue that we need so much and proclaim, through what we are and do, that Peace is possible. 
The pastor of the Mennonite church with three Catholic religious 
This journey in the Circle is giving a new impetus to our mission in the locality, it makes us look at the reality around us in a different way and has invited us to open our heart so as to encounter diversity. This journey: ecumenical, inter-congregational and in networks, is giving us an impetus for our 7th National Meeting of Ecumenical Women, builders of peace, that will take place from the 31 October – 3 November this year.
Sisters Blanca Marina and Hilda
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