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Tragedy transformed


In November of 2004, Colombian Mennonites held a funeral peace march in honour of friend and Mennonite pastor Javier Segura Gonzales, who was killed by a bomb while waiting for a bus. Javier died exactly one year before Gloria Lizcano was struck down by a presidential motorcade.

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January 8, 2006
- by Janet Plenert

Winnipeg, Man. — Gloria Lizcano, a humble 55-year-old Colombian mother and dedicated church volunteer was able to accomplish a rare event in this civil-war embattled country: She got her country’s leader to visit her church.

President Álvaro Uribe Vélez sat in a pew, next to his wife, Lina Maria, in the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá on November 28, 2005. They listened to a sermon that condemned violence as a resolution to conflict, and pointed to a gospel way of restoring and reconciling relationships. In a highly unusual move, the president’s bodyguards waited outside in response to parishioners’ request that there be no guns in the sanctuary.

Sadly, Gloria was unable to witness the event, because her body lay in a casket as Colombian Mennonite Church President Peter Stucky presented Gloria’s gift of life to the congregation – including Álvaro Uribe Vélez and Lina Maria.

Gloria Lizcano was a humble, simple servant of the Lord, said Stucky. A hard life did not stop her from patiently serving others and being an ever-ready, eager helper.

Mennonite pastor Jairo Roa preached the funeral message using Luke 22:24-30 as his text. Jairo talked about the value of service to others, the first being last, and the rejection of violence. This was a risky and powerful witness, an open declaration of the church’s opposition to violence as a means to conflict resolution.

Peter Stucky, leader of the Colombian Mennonite Church, later wrote about the funeral: “Isn’t it ironic that the President came to the funeral of the mother of a conscientious objector. [Gloria’s son John has been the coordinator of the Cooperative for Conscientious Objection for a number of years.] Also, it is ironic that the President came to a Mennonite church which has been critical of his political agenda. I think the presidential couple felt welcomed and sat with all the others, listening. No one applauded them. Only Gloria was applauded.”

Indeed the whole event dripped with irony. Gloria was killed not by bullets, but accidentally by a motorcycle in the president’s motorcade.

It was a Saturday night. She had just picked up the church bulletins, as she had for eons of Saturdays, and was on her way home – a short three blocks away – to fold them in preparation for the following day’s worship service. As the motorcade rounded a corner, her path crossed that of a presidential motorcycle. She died instantly.

Álvaro Uribe Vélez and Lina Maria expressed their sadness and grief over the tragedy. Characteristic of the Colombian Mennonite Church, the congregation seized the opportunity of a captive presidential audience to again say that Jesus has a better way.

May God also touch and transform those who are in the powerful places of this world.