· Vatican City ·



Colombia, the Prayer of Remembrance

 Colombia, l’orazione della memoria   DCM-004
06 April 2024

“The first occasion, on April 22, 1995, marked an expression of collective mourning. Through that moment of prayer, Colombia united in solidarity with the victims. Subsequently, on June 2, 2002, when we returned on pilgrimage, it symbolized an act of resurrection, which is renewed each year”.

Maritze Trigos, a Dominican nun, activist, and poet, recounts the profound pilgrimage experience facilitated by the Afavit Family Association, an organization she co-founded, aimed at preserving the memory of the 342 women and men brutally massacred in Trujillo and its surrounding villages between 1986 and 1994. These heinous acts were perpetrated by paramilitary groups in collusion with the security forces. Throughout the conflict, it became tragically common for death squads, funded by local landowners, to mercilessly slaughter peasants who dared to assert their rights, all with total impunity. This is just like the courageous farmers of Trujillo, who had been organized into cooperatives through the evangelical efforts of Pastor Tiberio Fernández. For this perceived “guilt”, the priest was abducted and subjected to torture until his death. Despite this harrowing tragedy, the residents of Trujillo refused to succumb to despair or remain imprisoned by fear.

“It was the women who took the courageous initiative”, Sister Maritze reflects. “They formed the majority of the survivors, and they were also the ones who adamantly resisted the oppressive silence enforced by the paramilitaries. They simply could not bear to suppress their harrowing experiences. Speaking out openly would have endangered them, so we opted for communal prayer as a form of collective resistance. This initial act was spontaneous, a heartfelt response to the anguish and grief we all shared. From that moment, with other lay people I visited all the families to figure out how to help them. It took years for them to cope with the terror”.

From this wellspring of collective resilience emerged the pilgrimage—a profound embodiment of prayer in motion. Indeed, the communal prayer catalyzed a courageous struggle for remembrance and justice, ultimately leading to the conviction of the four main perpetrators. Additionally, the state contributed by donating land for a park, where the residents themselves constructed an open-air museum of memory with their own hands. Within this space, on a day in the latter half of the year—though the exact date may vary—the pilgrimage occurs. Alternating between poetry and prayer, guided by Sister Maritze and other seasoned participants, individuals gather amidst the charnel houses containing the remains of the 234 victims, alongside stones commemorating the 14 most egregious massacres of the Colombian civil war. The centerpiece of this solemn event is the Mass, a celebration of resurrection and renewal. “We celebrate the resurrection. Death, as the Gospel teaches, does not prevail over life”.   (Lucia Capuzzi)