During Colombia’s long civil war one small region in particular suffered – the region of Medellin del Ariari.

Torture, abductions, murders, bombings, arbitrary arrests, thefts of the livestock people depended on… all were an inescapable part of their lives for decades. Between 2002 and 2006 over 700 families were forced to abandon their homes and fields. Since the civil war finally stopped raging, the Claretian missionaries, who endured this time of suffering alongside the people, were once more able to work openly for reconciliation.

The families returned, and pastoral work started again. In 2010 Bishop José Figueroa Gomez was able to establish a parish here, and in 2013 the people began work on a church which will be the centre of the new parish of San Antonio Maria Claret. Not only will it make parish life much easier; it will also stand as a memorial to the victims of the civil war.

But, as a house of God, this monument will point to the future rather than the past, inspiring new hope and inviting reconciliation, so that the sacrifice of the victims may be the seed of healing and salvation. That is why the missionaries also want to reinforce this memorial aspect with prayer, catechesis and study groups to promote human rights.

In this way a true community can be forged and new life can spring from the bloodsoaked earth. As for the church itself, the physical walls are standing – what is lacking is the funding to complete it. We have promised our help.

This article can be found in Mirror 0315.