Colombia / USA: Twinning for peace and justice

Roughly half of the world?s kidnappings occur in Colombia. Colombians forced to flee from violence by the guerrilla, paramilitary groups and security forces since 1985 number approximately 2.5 million, 70 per cent of whom are under 18. ?This is a humanitarian catastrophe and it could escalate in the immediate future if we do not receive greater international support,? declares Horacio Arango SJ, Provincial of Colombia. ?Within this global village, we have felt an immense solitude in our struggle to fight the drug trade and defend life in the midst of an armed conflict.? This feeling of abandonment may be changing. Encouraged by Father General, the Colombian Jesuits sought a bond of brotherhood and apostolic co-operation with the Oregon Jesuits. ?Their commitment to build a world of peace,? says Robert Grimm SJ, Provincial of Oregon, ?has captured our own best hope for making the Jesuit mission of ?faith doing justice? a more concrete reality in our own culture.? The two Provinces are now getting to know each other, connect their works, teach each other their languages, and bridge two nations whose policies and actions directly affect each other. Colombia?s cocaine invades the US market, while the American ?Plan Colombia? supplies military aid for counter-narcotic activities, but actually fuels the violence and forced displacements. The use of chemical herbicides in aerial spraying to eradicate illicit coca fields is also affecting communities, waterways and livestock. Inequitable land distribution in Colombia and the insatiable US demand for drugs are what make coca such a profitable crop; if the root causes don?t change, there is no reason to hope the supply will decrease. In the long term, US demand for these drugs will only reduce through education, treatment and rehabilitation.