Colombians support Korean CO

Justapaz group mobilizes prayer, letters for imprisoned conscientious objector

Aug 18, 2014 by and

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — For Jenny Neme, director of Colombian Mennonite organization Justapaz (Just Peace), recent support for South Korean conscientious objector San-Ming Lee was a natural occurrence.

It sprung, she said, from an attempt to “seek solidarity and mutual support, based in the prophetic role of the churches to engage in political advocacy.”

In Bogotá, Colombia, church members march for the right to claim conscientious objector status in the midst of their nation’s mandatory military service requirement. — Justapaz

In Bogotá, Colombia, church members march for the right to claim conscientious objector status in the midst of their nation’s mandatory military service requirement. — Justapaz

Justapaz has supported conscientious objection for almost 25 years. It offers encouragement to young men who object to Colombia’s obligatory military service because of their faith.

Justapaz also advocates for the inclusion of the CO right in Colombia’s legal system.

The organization uses workshops, theological training and alliance building to promote nonviolent peacebuilding as an alternative to military service.

It wasn’t until the March meeting of the Mennonite World Conference Peace Commission in the Netherlands that Neme first heard about the case of San-Ming Lee, a 27-year-old member of Grace and Peace Mennonite Church in Seoul, South Korea. Lee, the first Mennonite in South Korea to declare himself a CO, is serving a jail sentence of 18 months.

More than 92 percent of the world’s imprisoned COs are in South Korea.

Since hearing Lee’s story, Neme and Justapaz shared his testimony with Colombian Mennonites. Many individuals and churches have committed to sending him letters of encouragement and prayer. According to Neme, part of this response comes from shared experiences.

“This is something that can happen to us in Colombia as well, that one of our young men could be imprisoned,” she said. “As well, we are witnesses that when we have needed urgent responses from our brothers and sisters, it has worked.”

Justapaz is working with organizations in the U.S., Germany and South Korea on CO workshops for the 2015 MWC assembly. The workshops will include historical and theological perspectives and a look at the realities of conscientious objection today. The goal is to build solidarity on an issue that affects Anabaptists worldwide.

For Neme, conscientious objection presents a challenge for all Anabaptists to value “a theme that is very important for our faith tradition.”

This article originally appeared on the Mennonite World Conference website.


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