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Colombia 2016

Colombia 2016

The first study trip organized by the Amsterdam Centre for Religion and Peace & Justice Studies saw a journey to Bogotá, Colombia with the students of the master specialization Peace, Trauma, and Religion. It focused on the concept of reconciliation in the context of the Colombian conflict.​

The first part of the week involved inquiries on the subject. Mornings were reserved for lectures, while during the afternoon sessions the participants met representatives from various organizations that were involved in the subjects of the course.

The second part of the week was intended to be a journey and stay at El Garzal, a local farming community. However, and unfortunately, due to rising violence in the region it was decided that, instead, we would remain in Barrancabermeja.



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Co-facilitation: Even though the course is primarily under the responsibility of two professors, the methodology of the course will seek to count with different voices, experiences and approaches to the topic of reconciliation, i.e., the course will count with guest speakers. Methodologically, this will mean that the course will have a ‘seminary’ outlook in some moments (when there will be some guests participating in panels) and more of ‘class’ in others, when the dialogues, exchanges, debates and practical exercises will be promoted among the participants and students.

Participants: The course will seek to count with the participation of 204 students, among whom there will be leaders of communities in Colombia, regular students of the Mennonite Seminary in Colombia, students of the VU University Amsterdam (The Netherlands), and some other interested people.

Sessions: This will be an ‘intensive course’ to take place in the week of the 7th to the 11th of March, 2016. For this reason, the course will count with daily sessions (for a period of at least 5 hours a day) in addition to some visits to different practical initiatives or experiences on reconciliation.

Assignments: Previous readings, participation in class and a final essay will be the assignments for the course



This report describes the program of the conference. Each morning different speakers presented different perspectives to the topic of reconciliation, faith, forgiveness and justice. During the midday programs we met in a smaller group with representatives of community and government organizations. Central to the conference was the topic of reconciliation, Christian faith and the situation in Colombia. But as you will see, we encountered many different perspectives to these topics and discussed interdisciplinary approaches, as well as different international perspectives.


Next to church representatives, NGO associates and community members, people from El Garzal, a small community in the Northern jungle of Colombia participated. The people from El Garzal are under constant violent threat from paramilitary groups surrounding them. However, due to their strong faith and positive community peacebuilding process, they find the strength to resist giving up the land and continue their struggle for justice. In addition, during the conference, thoughts, different feelings and dialogue have been present during and around the entire program.

Britt Bakker, Reconciliation from a Christian Perspective - Bogota, Colombia, Amsterdam, 2016.


In this report, Saapke van der Meer reflects on and summarises the course of Reconciliation from a Faith Perpsective. Van der Meer describes the lectures in the morning, the meetings with various organisations in the afternoon, and of course our visit to Barrancabermeja, closing with a personal reflection on her own experiences. 

As Van der Meer also mentions, the visit to Barrancabermeja was intended to be a pit stop on the way to El Garzal, a local farming community. However, due to the presence of armed forces in the region, the visit was cancelled.

This report is in Dutch.

Saapke van der Meer, Verzoening vanuit een Christelijk Perspectief: Bezoek van studenten en docenten van de Vrije Universiteit aan Bogotá, Amsterdam, 2016.


To promote an ethical/theological framework of reference to comprehend the phenomenon of reconciliation, through the exploration of different perspectives, experiences and dialogues, with the goal of promoting the voice and the role of the churches and faith communities in the processes of peace building.


In recent times, terms such as ‘reconciliation’ and ‘peace’ have become more and more common in the midst of the mass media, public opinion, and politicians, among others, which has led to some ‘trivialisation’ and ‘utilisation’ of these terms without major study or care about the complexity of their meanings.

Even though these categories have clearly theological and Christian roots they seem now confined to the political and juridical spheres.

Thus, it becomes more and more important to seek and establish possible ways in which these topics can be addressed and what contributions can be made from a faith/ethical perspective, in order to regain and stress the richness and complexity that reconciliation and peace have and their importance today. This will help reaffirm the role that faith communities and churches have in terms of human reconciliation and the processes of advocating for peace with justice.

Colombia 2016: Course Description

This course was designed to promote an ethical/theological framework of reference to analyse, comprehend, and address the phenomenon of reconciliation and its different dimensions, making special emphasis on the Colombian context and what it means and implies to “be” peace (faith) communities or churches in the midst of a context full of broken relationships as result of the dynamics of injustice and violence.

To complete this goal, the course focused on an exploration of different biblical-theological perspectives on reconciliation and its different dimensions. Thus, exploring the ecumenical developments in the areas of peace building and reconciliation become an important source. This is why the course contemplated how the topic of reconciliation has been addressed by different ecumenical spaces, with special emphasis on the World Council of Churches (WCC) and specifically with the initiative – from 2013 onwards - of the “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace” and how it is – or might be connected- with reconciliation.

The offered course sought to promote an exchange of reflections between some academy and the experiences of communities in Colombia. To do so, the course counted on the participation of regular students (both in Colombia and in The Netherlands) as well as with the presence of some leaders of different grass-root communities. In addition to the exchange sought in the midst of the sessions, the students were encouraged to be partakers of some visits to different communities and experiences of peacemaking and reconciliation.



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