On the Road of Hope

Ricardo Premio Sembrandopaz is very, very pleased and gratified to be recognized by World Vision International with its Peace Award for 2014. As our Director, Ricardo Esquivia says, Sembrandopaz is not an organization, it is a community, and this award belongs to everyone in our community. We humbly serve a larger process that is driven from within four communities themselves—Pichilín, Mampuján, Libertad, and the Alta Montaña—and extends in a network of partnership across the Caribbean coast.

We thank World Vision International and World Vision Colombia for this recognition, and take it as a vote of confidence that we are on the right path. We also thank World Vision for its commitment to moving us all toward a safer, more secure, healthier, happier world through their Christ-inspired focus lifting up the smallest among us. Thank you as well to the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding for nominating us, and for its commitment to shining a light on the religous voices for peace around the world.

Thank you all for your congratulations and words of encouragement. From our small space here in Sincelejo, Sembrandopaz—our community—will continue to move toward peace, one step at a time.

Here is a portion of the acceptance speech of our Director, Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas:


Remarks on behalf of Sembrandopaz in acceptance of the World Vision International Peace Prize
Sincelejo, September 20, 2014
By Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas

They say that once a man was being chased by bandits who wanted to kill him. Desperate, he entered a network of caves and hid in one. In anguish he asked God to protect him, to send angels to his aid. Suddenly a little spider appeared at the entrance of the cave and started to weave a web. Distressed and fearful, the man told God that he didn´t want a spider, he needed a wall that prevented the bandits from entering the cave! Meanwhile the spider continued weaving its web. The bandits, in hushed voices, talked among themselves:

“Let us go into this cave, he could be in here.”
“No, he isn´t in there. Don´t you see the spider web covering the entrance? No one has been in there for years.”

And the bandits left.

God has many ways to respond to the suffering and anguish of our people, and it is not always in the ways we think or expect. In this little story, the man asked for protection, and he thought this would come in some spectacular way, like a miracle of angels descending or a great wall appearing. But God responded with a spider, whose weak web fooled the bandits.

And so I think of a beautiful saying, “If you ask of God a tree, God gives it in the form of a seed.”

And it has been in the form of seeds that God has responded to these brave and suffering people of the Montes de Maria. Seeds that they can transform into those “Trees of Justice” mentioned in the biblical passage Isaiah 61:3.

When Jesus began his ministry, according to the Gospel of Mark, he begins with a passage from Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor… (verse 3 ) and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

And those little seeds are there in the communities, growing and bringing hope through small acts of justice, using education, trust, nonviolence, and strengthening their roots, their branches, growing like true trees of justice.

We as Sembrandopaz, accompany them and act as an oil that helps lubricate their movements and actions, and do so confident that every little seed has within itself the secret of how to become a tree.

This recognition, provided so generously today by World Vision International, we receive humbly in the name of team of Sembrandopaz and the communities with whom we create this process of growth. We take it as an external indicator that tells us “there is the road ahead. Go forward!”

Thank you! Symbolic acts such as this are nourishment that fortify us and help to release the germinating power of the seeds of hope, justice and peace.