An inter-church group from the USA has met with Colombian church representatives to discuss issues of internally displaced people as well as the relationship between the two regions - writes Anna Lemler.
The meeting was hosted by Consejo Latino-Americano de Iglesias, or Latin American Council of Churches. Its staff presented extensive information about the complex social problems in Colombia and ways that the organisation hopes to respond.
During the encounter, representatives from Colombia, including Episcopal Bishop Francisco Duque-Gómez, underscored the social issues facing the country and steps the churches are taking to respond. Challenges of displaced families, human rights, poverty, and Afro-Colombian rights were highlighted.
The Episcopal Church of Colombia was recently honored by the nation's Senate in recognition of its pastoral care and social development work over the past 50 years.
The diocese was officially constituted as a missionary church by the Episcopal Church's General Convention in 1963 and has since been committed to outreach ministries to provide health care, food, and education to the most vulnerable groups in its society, especially the displaced, hungry and homeless, children and widows.
The diocese is part of Province IX of the Episcopal Church. With its 21 congregations, it has made strategic alliances with local governments in an effort to maintain and strengthen its aid programs.
After listening to the presentations of the Colombian leaders, the US church leaders responded. The Rev Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, and Episcopal Bishop Johncy Itty, chair of the Church World Service's board of directors, spoke about how their organisations are currently addressing the issues and how they intend to respond in the future.
Kinnamon said that the government and churches in the US have neglected Latin America and that he is committed to ensuring that the region is no longer ignored.
The meeting was the first of its kind. The US group is taking a week to travel to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador to hear more about the issues and to build stronger relationships.
Anna Lemler is a Young Adult Service Corps volunteer for the Episcopal Church serving in Bogotá, Colombia. With acknowledgments to the Episcopal News Service.