“If we don’t open our eyes, if we are afraid of challenges, we won’t be cultivating life. We will be cultivating death.”
For decades violence has been commonplace in Columbia. Rebel and government forces have been waging war that has only been exacerbated by the cocaine cartels operating there. The American war on drugs plays a part in this as well, as we supply military equipment and expertise. The indigenous peoples have been caught in the crossfire of all this violence.
We Women Warriors follows the story of three women from different parts of the country who have had to deal with the effects of this violence. All three have begun to respond to the violence. Two of the three have served as governors for their tribes, the third has created a women’s group that seeks to market their weavings. They all find creative ways to non-violently fight back against the darkness that has filled their communities.
The film recognizes no good side and bad side in the violence that fills Columbia. Sometimes it is the government that comes into a village and takes people away, claiming they are rebels; sometimes the rebels come and kill those they think support the government. There is no legal process in any of this. They all rely on the power of the gun. Those involved usually have no role on either side of the fighting. A story is related of two cousins who play together often: one will grow up to become a rebel because the government killed his father, the other will be a soldier because the rebels killed his father. When asked what would happen if they meet each other in those roles, they say they would kill each other.
In such a world, what power can women such as these have? Perhaps their power is small, but they are determined to do what they can. One of them, when the police/army set up a barracks in their town, held a tribal tribunal. Under the Columbian Constitution, indigenous people have certain rights. The tribunal declared that the barracks must be removed in 72 hours. The deadline came and nothing happened. Twenty-four hours passed, nothing happened. Then the next day the whole village began to dismantle the barracks, sandbag by sandbag, until it was gone.
These women all face death threats. The forces of violence are not going to stop just because these women have told them to. But they cannot conceive of not doing what they are able to do to bring it to an end. Said one of them, “This might cost us our lives, because the country and the world are used to shutting us up. Sadly they’re used to our silence. But the conclusion is we must speak up.”
The film opens with a group of women spinning and weaving. This is the way they are trying to achieve a bit of financial independence. It also serves as a powerful metaphor for the way various groups and people can be woven together into a movement that has power beyond what any one part has alone.
How are we to respond to the evil that fills the world around us. Those who hold power—whether the power of the gun, or financial, or political—are often used to our silence. We need to take lessons from these “women warriors” and speak and act to bring shalom to a broken and breaking world.