Adelaida Jiménez: Reflection on 2007 Vigil to Close the SOA

In November 2007, the Reverend Adelaida Jiménez-Cortes wrote the following reflection on her experience at the 2007 Vigil to Close the SOA and on the violence in her home, Colombia. Thank you to Adelaida, for sharing her thoughts, and to Erica Spilde for her translation work.


"In the place where the human person is deformed and the destruction of life is taught, the Holy Spirit of God is not there."


I wanted to write a reflection about my feelings regarding the experience of participating in the protest against the School of the Americas. Since I began thinking about the possibility of participating, many thoughts [have come] to my mind and, above all, the profound desires to feel one more time the beating heart of many people in this country who express their solidarity for my country, Colombia, and for other countries that suffer the errors of violence in all of its manifestations.


There are many feelings in my life. Today I have seen many faces, expressions, many crosses, each cross representing everyone and the murdered of our countries: these crosses are a symbol of those who lost their lives. On the other hand, marching for those who have been denied the right to live is a sign of solidarity, walking for those who have lost their voice is a sign of the justice of God, walking for those who do not even have a voice is a signal that we are not alone and there is still hope.


To walk with my family, with Milton, Ivan and Andres once more, was to feel that we are family and that little by little my children understand what is going on in our country, their lives day by day are challenged by hope and by dreams of a present and a future where another world is possible.


When I began to walk I felt that every cross represented our dead and every step I took was a remembrance of the disappeared, of the brothers and sisters of those about whom nothing is known. I thought of the long history of disappeared in my country. O God, where are they? Where have they gone? Where have they been taken? Thousands of questions came to my head. Where are they? Who answers for them? Who will remember their names? My skin was transformed and, in the midst of hearing the names of the murdered, a feeling of emptiness appeared inside of me. [It was] that emptiness that I have experienced in my life so many times since I left my country...since I abandoned my land, my family, my people; that emptiness that is not possible to explain on its own, you just know it is there... When I heard the endless list of the babies, of the assassinated boys and girls, a profound pain tore up within my soul...Oh God, boys and more girls, the barbarians have stolen from them the right to life.


That list of people boomed in my mind, every name expressed in a song in the form of a lament, produced many feelings in me. The names of the youth made me remember the youth of my country, the youth of my church, those that do not find hope in any corner, those whom without having a present and a future are prisoners of a system that offers them a possibility of weapons...and that many see that as a closer future than not having opportunities... And this fact made my feeling of helplessness, of frustration, flourish again.


I looked around me at faces full of pain and of astonishment, voices that said the victims are present and that is because they are present everywhere in our Latin America. They will be forever in the hearts of their family, of their community, their names will be remembered, they will be in me and in you, present.


The impressions did not end; an experience that touched my heart again was upon seeing a woman whose name I did not know, I only knew that she was from Guatemala. She had hung up the picture of her son who was killed in the neck and was crying bitterly. I usually have a voice of encouragement, but this time...the knot in my throat did not allow words to get out...and I saw her face, her eyes filled with tears, searching for justice for her son. It reminded me of all the women in my country, crying for their dead, but I also thought of those women who look for their disappeared family members. And a new question arose in my mind, how to ease her pain? Truly, as a pastor I didn't limited I felt once again.


In the midst of pain, to feel the solidarity of a people that unite to walk and demand justice filled with me hope. To see the presence of boys and girls, of adolescents, young adults in the protest, this to me is a sign that God is walking with all those who suffer, is a sign that our world has hope, is the promise that our children will have a tomorrow, is the certainty that the powerful and those who destroy life will not have the last word.


Still within me are the faces of the Presbyterian brothers and sisters who decided to be arrested, and that in the morning had asked me to offer a sending prayer. In the midst of sharing with them a small reflection of the light of Isaiah 41:8-10, I saw their faces convinced of what they were going to do, I saw in them the expression of solidarity, of love for their neighbor, but they couldn't avoid thinking about the moment of arrest, to have their hands tied, to feel what it is to be jailed, to feel the loss of the most precious, freedom. But I also saw in the faces of many brothers and sisters that were present and that in years past had gone through the same experience and I felt them full of hope, I saw them strengthened and ready to continue walking, fighting for justice.


At the end of march I felt that I needed new strength. It was like a fountain of living water to read the Gospel of Matthew 5:1-17 in the communion service organized by the Presbyterians. To share the bread and the wine as a symbol of the handing over of the love of Jesus was to remember that Jesus walks with his people. To do this in the context of the protest was to re-live, to make the victims present, and to dream that for all those who suffer persecution, death, violence, God will make justice.


Having moved on to a resting space, still hearing the names of our dead, a hug from Gary came in an opportune moment. I needed it, and in the night I could tell him, "Thank you for the hug."


I want to finish this reflection with the phrase with which I began. Today I am convinced that where human life is deformed and the destruction of life is taught, the Holy Spirit is not there; and that is because God is hope, not destruction and death. From Genesis we read that God recreates creation from chaos, that God liberates the people from the oppression and from the slavery of Egypt, that God blew the breath of life and human life was possible and in that is the Spirit of God. In the testimony of the prophets God denounced injustices and heard the outcry of those who suffer. In Jesus we have the concrete revelation of the love of God for humanity; that Jesus who shared, who walks, with his people; that Jesus who denounces the powerful; that Jesus who denounced the cruelty of a system of social oppression; that Jesus who denounces the unjust religious system that oppresses the weak of the land. Jesus was a teacher and taught [everyone] to live in love and justice, he taught [everyone] to build life, he taught [everyone] to love their neighbor, he taught [everyone] to be a community in the diversity that we are. Jesus took the form of a human person and was recognized as a person. Jesus was identified with his people. And the Spirit of God was in Him because He was life.


I believe that, inspired by the Spirit of God that encourages life, we find hope in that the people of God can summon from diversity and religious pluralism to walk alongside those who suffer and demand justice. And also that the processes of denouncement are not easy and take time, but in the constant walk and in the perseverance of the people, justice and peace for our land is made closer.


God bless those who walk in love and solidarity for my people and with our entire Latin America. God console the families of the victims of violence. God, make justice possible for them. God the traveler is with us and helps us to keep up our prophetic voice.


I give thanks to God and for CRLN that made my presence possible in this experience of faith and of hope; today my life is feeling challenged to continue walking alongside those who suffer.


Adelaida Jiménez-Cortes


Chicago, November 19, 2007