The political-military conflict in which children are the main victims led to CEPALC (Center for Social Communication in Latin America) creating programs that promote a true culture of peace in the country of Colombia. Based on the values of the gospel, CEPALC’S programs are specifically designed for children of the sectors hardest hit by poverty and violence. Children who participate in these programs have been the most effective sowers of peace in the lives of their families and communities. The programs focus on human and children’s rights, social values, and media training through different ways of teaching and learning, such as painting, music, theatre, radio, and video, among others. Through these methods, children creatively express their vision of the world and society, their view of conflicts and social problems, and their view of the role and validity of the rights of children in everyday life.
A Story to Tell
AMELIE USCÁTEGUI, eight years old
Meet Amelie, an eight-year-old girl who lives in Bogotá. Here is what she writes:
"I told my mom that we had seen some works of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Flora Tristan. I remember that they taught us that we must defend the rights of us women. What I like, in general, is that they taught us that we must make peace. If we fight and have war, we will make God sad because he taught peace. Jesus taught us to be caring and compassionate and always be with people who suffer poverty and injustice.
Thanks to CEPALC workshops, I'll be a writer, and I will write things so that children will promote and defend peace, following Jesus’ examples. I will defend and promote our rights in my stories so that nobody can disrespect us or the rights that we have.
My dad and my mom are happy because I told them that I learned that peace is the best thing in our world, as Jesus taught his disciples; and as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela taught. When I am an adult, I won't be doing violence against anybody."
(The following activities may be used in any order that works with the children you teach.)
Colombia is located in South America. Can you find it on a map? After you find Colombia, take time to locate Bogotá on the map too. How far is Amelie from where you live?
Bogotá is the capital and largest city in Colombia. Many people from around Colombia gather in this city. Many families and cultures are represented here. When you look around, you can see a lot of green in Bogotá – the green of the city’s parks and the mountains that are to the east of the city. There are many rich red brick buildings to look at too. People who have a lot of money live here, but so do many who do not have very much money at all. Sometimes there is conflict and fighting near the city. CEPALC works to help children find their way in the world, giving them tools to build relationships and express themselves through arts and other activities.
Read Colossians 3:12-17 together. In this Scripture, we are given instructions about how to live as Christ followers. Have children take turns reading each of the verses; then ask the following wonder questions:
- I wonder what you learned about God.
- I wonder what you learned about yourself.
- I wonder who helps you.
- I wonder where your safe place is.
Read together the Prayer of St. Francis. Talk with the children about what it means to be instruments of peace. Pray for the children, their sponsors, and their teachers.
Sing songs that help the children understand and share words of peace. An entire list of United Methodist music on peace can be found at: http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/worship-and-music-resources-on-peace
Play “Let There Be Peace on Earth” (United Methodist Hymnal, 431) for the children. You might bring in your own recording, have a music leader in your church play the song for the children; or you might choose to show an online recording of a similar tune (such as John Rutter’s “Lord, Make Me An Instrument of Thy Peace,” sung by the Cambridge singers). Invite children to journal or draw what they think, see, and hear about peace as they listen to the music and think about how God calls us to live. If time permits, invite willing children to share their thoughts with the rest of the group.
Break Bread Together
There are many places to get fresh fruits and vegetables in Bogotá. People in this city also really enjoy a special potato soup called ajiaco. Other favorite foods include pork, chocolate, and cheese.
For this lesson, go to a local farmer’s market. Pick up some items that look good that you want to share with the children. Explain to the children that you picked up their food in a place that is similar to where people in Bogotá might shop for food. Display pictures of outdoor markets similar to the one shown here. Bring small pieces of chocolate and cheese as fun treats.
The children at CEPALC enjoy producing radio broadcasts and videos. Invite the children in your group to write a script for a screenplay, radio broadcast, or an online video that shares what they have learned about Bogotá and the children at CEPALC. Invite them to share their work with you and with others. If you have photo/video release forms signed for your children, you might choose to share the recordings/videos online on your church’s website and/or Facebook page and invite people to support CEPALC by making an offering to this ministry.
Bless One Another
As you prepare to say goodbye, thank the children for joining you as you all learned more about the children in Bogotá and the CEPALC ministry. Ask them to go home and share what they learned with their families, and invite their families and friends to help raise money for children in Bogota to continue learning how to be instruments of God’s peace. As they leave, take time to offer each child a blessing:
Ask the children if they would like to receive a blessing, then make the shape of a cross on each child’s forehead or hand while saying these words:
(Make a vertical line.) “God loves you.”
(Make a horizontal line.) “God is with you.”
(Look the child in his/her eyes.) “Go share God’s love with others.”
- Host a farm to table dinner or fresh food night at your church
- Invite congregation members to bring their families’ favorite recipes that use fresh ingredients, such as vegetables and fruits found at local farmers’ markets or food stands. Encourage people to try to use ingredients from their local farmers markets (where applicable/available). Ask them to bring copies of the recipes with them to the dinner if they are willing to share.
- Invite the church and the community to the meal.
- At the meal, take up a love offering for the CEPALC ministry. With the children’s permission, show their skit, radio broadcast, and/or video to help share the work of CEPALC with the guests. Celebrate the diversity within your church and the many traditions represented by the various dishes. Hand out the recipe cards, thanking those who cooked and inviting everyone to try the recipes at home as they remember God’s call to embrace and love all people, creating peace among God’s creation.
- Take pictures at the event. If you have signed photo releases, post the pictures and the amount raised on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #childrensfund.
Send all money collected to your annual conference treasurer marked The Advance #3021113. (You can also give electronically at http://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/Projects/3021113.) OR you may send your money directly to: United Methodist Children’s Fund for Christian Mission (or UM Children’s Fund), Discipleship Ministries, PO Box 340003, Nashville, TN 37203-0003. (Please include your church name and complete address with your contribution.)