Posted by: Chloe Schwabe | April 1, 2009

A Spirituality of Solidarity

In this week’s lectionary reading we are reminded of our covenant as Christians to each other and to the rest of Creation. This covenant is written on our hearts. Do you feel pain in your heart when you hear of another suffering or of the loss of another member of Creation? How can we develop a spirituality of solidarity with the rest of Creation and with each other? I believe that the prophets throughout the Bible teach us that our faith lays the foundation for this task.

For the last few months, as my personal commitment to solidarity, I have been  preparing for the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia which are April 19th and 20th. This is an opportunity to learn about and pray for the end of violence in this nation, and understand the role US policy contributes to the stress of the ongoing civil war. The 20th is an opportunity to act in solidarity. This year the focus is on lifting up the over four million forcefully displaced persons in the country. Many of them are women, children, Afro-Colombians, and Indigenous communities.

What does this have to do with eco-justice? Some are displaced due to violence between the armed actors, but others are displaced due to resource exploitation such as for a new coalmine or oil drilling site. Another reason is due to the U.S. funded fumigations occurring in the Colombian rainforest. The fumigations are supposed to reduce the amount of coca grown to manufacture cocaine. But the aerial fumigations also kill food crops for sustenance or as alternative development for some communities. They also kill other flora and fauna that inhabit the rainforests.

The fumigations are basically large quantities of the same chemical used in Roundup- glyphosate. According to Witness for Peace, a faith-based grassroots group accompanying communities in Colombia, “The chemical mixture being employed in Colombia has never been adequately tested for environmental and human health impacts. Yet people on the ground in affected regions indicate that the spray significantly harms both. At least 10,000 farmers have reported food crops killed by fumigations and the UN Special Rapporteur on Health said there is ‘credible and trustworthy evidence’ that fumigations are harmful to human health.”

Over the years, I have met farmers whose crops have been destroyed due to these fumigations, seen pictures of rashes on people’s bodies who were living near sites that were fumigated, and met pastors accompanying these communities. Colombia is currently the only country using this method to try and limit cocaine production. So far, it is destroying precious wilderness areas in the second most biodiverse country in the world and food crops. Furthermore, the number of hectares used to grow coca has actually increased by 20%. Maybe it is time to try another approach that provides opportunities for Colombia’s poor to develop sustainable livelihoods, perhaps ones that can promote stewardship of the Earth. We can also do more to address drug addiction at home thus cutting the demand.

Find out more about the Colombia Days of Prayer and Action from Witness for Peace. To sign a WFP petition to stop aeirial fumigations click here.



  1. I was not aware of the fumigation practices in Columbia. I do not use Roundup and related products around my own yard because these chemicals are indiscriminate killers. Seems that the human propensity for destructive ignorance is enormous.

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