More statistics, grim this time

The invaluable Semana magazine reports that 81% of child sexual abuse cases in Colombia never made it to court.

That’s the cases the were reported to the authorities. Not the thousands more that are never spoken of.

What to do?

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The Colombian Family

Semana magazine published the following statistics about Colombia family life. Of course, being Colombia, everything is extreme.

11% of the children in Colombia are orphans, the highest percentage in Latin America.

10% of Colombian families survive on a dollar a day or less. Only Bolivia and Nicaragua in Latin America have higher percentages.

84% of Colombian children are born out of wedlock.

45% of adult Colombians (over aged 18) are single.

35% cohabit, the second highest proportion in the world. (Peru has the highest, 36%).

And 20% are married, the lowest proportion in the world.

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War and peace

Twelve members of the armed forces died in an ambush organized by the ELN (the National Liberation Army), Colombia’s second-biggest rebel group.

The 11 soldiers and one policeman were attacked as they escorted ballot papers from Sunday’s local elections being transported from a indigenous area.

It seems that the ELN want to participate in the ongoing peace process.

In the strange parallel reality of Colombia’s armed groups, the way of showing ones desire for peace is to perpetrate an act of war.

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Things I’ve seen

A woman riding pillion on a motorbike holding a cloth over the head of the man in front to protect him from the blazing sun.

A man on a motorbike talking on a mobile phone that was jammed between his ear and his helmet.

A girl walking towards me, limping. I looked down at her feet and she was wearing a flip-flop on one foot because it had some sort of wound, and her regulation school shoe on the other. I don’t know why she wasn’t allowed to wear flip-flops on both feet!

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Election Sunday

Yesterday the city was quiet.

The bars round my church were closed. There was no ciclovía, when pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to use half of the main roads in the city, as is usual every Sunday, so the traffic flowed.

Elections for governors and mayors and members of other local councils were taking place. All sale of alcohol was banned. The metro was free so people could get to their polling stations.

The sun was shining. It seemed as if Medellín was a renewed, calmer, saner version of herself.

The defence minister said it had been the quietest elections ever, but even so, a soldier died protecting the elections in a rural part of Antioquia, there region where I live.

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Remember last year, Germany beat Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals of the World Cup and in a strange way, Colombia, in agony after the loss of her team against Brazil in a nasty, bad-tempered match, came to rest?

I’ll feel the same if Argentina beat Australia in the rugby.

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The photo is the easy part, now for the peace.

I wonder if you noticed the announcement on 23rd September that the Colombian government and the FARC rebels had committed themselves to signing a final peace deal on 23rd March, 2016?

It’s very hard to know what is going on in Havana, Cuba, where the talks are taking place. My friends reacted to the news in a range of ways: from extreme scepticism to cautious optimism. My view is that some sort of peace deal, however imperfect, must be signed for the country to move forward but that the years after the deal are likely to be pretty turbulent as thousands of demobilized fighters struggle to re-enter society and old scores are settled.

Antonio Caballero, a commentator in the Colombian news weekly, Semana, put his finger on the real issue, the persistence of the conditions that caused the conflict in the first place. He writes:

Signing a peace treaty doesn’t take us to the end of the war but rather it takes us back to the beginning of the war. Which will start again if those problems [massive inequality, for one] are not addressed.

So if you have been praying for peace in Colombia, be encouraged, but keep going.

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Church heritage

Remember our church’s cool “Family of the Week” slot?

One week, the family of the week was one of the founding families of the church. Unusually for a Colombian Protestant church, my church is over 100 years old, being one of the oldest Protestant Churches in the country.

A line-up of very elderly people, all siblings, stood up to introduce their family, beginning with their grandfather, their parents, the twelve siblings, 70 grandchildren, 85 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren.

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One of the best things about the camps last month was the open time at the end where the participants could say something they had learned or experienced at the camp.

Here is the one the made the biggest impact on me, the story of an older lady:

I am ill, and I am only here because my medical appointments were changed at the last minute. I miss my mum who died a year ago. There were twelve of us and my 5 older brothers were murdered.

At this point, my face showed my shock but not a single local person listening showed any expression on their face. In the region we were in, 90% of the population were victims of the conflict.

The lady went on, so our first brother was murdered, then the second said he would get revenge and he said it in public so they killed him. And the same with the third and so on. Our sixth brother had special needs and he died of a heart attack. And then my mum died. She is the one that said over and over, we must forgive, we mustn’t take revenge. My sisters are scattered and I feel alone.

But I look at you all and you are my new family.

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Metro Culture

I was on the Medellín metro recently when a woman got on, accompanied by her elderly mother.

She said, Could someone help me with a seat, please? and 4 people leapt up immediately.

The older lady inched forward to one of the offered seats, put her hands on the respective right and left knees of the people to her left and right and plopped down with a sigh of relief.

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