A combination of full-time and reservist trained volunteers staff the team. Four to eight Spanish-speaking members are serving in Colombia at any given time and a half-time Support Coordinator works in conjunction with CPT’s international offices. We are here because we feel called to put our faith into action. We live, worship and work in community.
At the invitation of the Mennonite Church of Colombia CPT began its work in Colombia in 2001 accompanying threatened communities in the Opon, organizations, and their leadership. As of today, CPT Colombia accompanies rural communities and human rights organizations on a regular basis in the Magdalena Medio region.
The Team is based in and has a long history of working in the Magdalena Medio region, although in recent years we have also begun to do occasional accompaniment in other parts of the country. Our home and office is located in Barrancabermeja, the unofficial capital of the region. Many local nonviolent social and human rights organizations are active in the region. We work to support these local peacemakers in building peace with justice. However, there are also Paramilitaries, the guerrilla, and the state forces are present in this strategic area of Colombia and many of the citizens of the region are the victims of violence perpetrated by right-wing armed actors (both paramilitary and military), and to a lesser extent, by the left-wing guerrilla groups. The Magdalena Medio region is typical of most of the country in that it is resource-rich while many of its citizens struggle against cycles of violence and poverty.
Much of the economic and physical violence benefits powerful national and international elites in their efforts to gain and retain control over valuable resources. Civilians are caught in the crossfire between the military and paramilitaries and their guerrilla opponents and civilians are also often directly targeted. These forces are most likely to target civilians if they are politically active and/or occupy land coveted by powerful legal and illegal business interests. For example, multinational corporations are using physical and economic violence to displace peasant farmers to take land to plant palm oil to sell to the Global North. As of May 2009, more than four million Colombians have displaced from their lands, homes and livelihoods due to violence and threats of further violence.