You can't eat guns

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field. – Matt. 13:24 

Armed conflict in some regions of Colombia is still a reality. 

This morning, I visited the village of Caño Berruguita in the coastal region. Many of the families who are here now fled violence in the village 15 years ago. With paramilitaries and guerillas fighting for control, along with government forces, families simply picked up what they could and left behind everything else they owned.

Fifteen years later, a few of the displaced families are back, trying to make a living in what was once a thriving village. Sembrandopaz (sowing peace), an MCC partner, has begun a loan program here.

We walked through the creek and up the side of the mountain with Walter. He had planted corn high on the hillside. With a loan of $125, Walter planted 2,000 ñame plants among the corn stalks. This starch root vegetable is a staple among the people here. With what he earns from selling the ñame, Walter will be able to pay off his loan and earn an equivalent amount of profit. Next year, he’ll be able to double the size of his crop.

Later, Dioscelite and Benjamin hosted us in their courtyard. Benjamin is a member of the town council who grants the loans in the community. Dioscelite said she had to flee to Sincelejo 15 years ago after, first, her brother was killed by armed forces, and then two cousins. She said that sometimes they didn’t even know the identity of the forces that were killing them.

Dioscelite said that living in Sincelejo felt like living in a jail and her family wanted to get back to their land. They moved back several years ago.

Benjamin told us that the armed forces tried to make him join them, but he resisted. He told the leaders that he was already helping to feed their families and that should be enough. You can’t eat guns, he told them.

Dioscelite said that with a little bit of help like these loans, life is getting better for the people of Caño Berruguita. Good seed has been planted here. And the kingdom of heaven is nearer because of it. 

Ron Byler is executive director for Mennonite Central Committee U.S. 


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