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Hands that weave peace

Survivors of conflict in Colombia tell their stories in tapestries

Written by Isabel Orozco Álvarez 2023

A Colombian women wearing a yellow top looks out of a window at houses made of brick and with tin roofs

Amparito looks out of her window at the neighbourhood she now calls home. Photo: Carolina Niklison

In Burundi, a smiling man stands in the middle of a group of seated women who are dressed in colourful clothes

From: Peace and reconciliation - Footsteps 121

Actions we can take to help build peace and foster reconciliation in our homes and communities

In Colombia there is a conflict between armed groups that is more than 70 years old. Because of this conflict, thousands of people have been violently displaced from their homes and lands. Generally, they leave the countryside and go to the city. 

In most cases, the mother is the one who survives the violent attacks. She becomes a widow who must look after her children. These mothers, who used to cultivate the land and raise animals with their hands, now do not know what to do with them because these skills are useless in the city. Their hands are empty and they live in poverty. 

A tapestry depicting a tree with a bird nesting in the top of it

A bird nesting in a tree: one of the tapestries created by the ladies in the Mujeres de la Memoria group. Photo: Isabel Orozco Álvarez

Gladys, Amparito and Ana Belén are three of the women who came to live in Granizal, on the outskirts of Medellín. Many look at them and see people who have strange dress or speech, or who could be dangerous. However, they are women of faith: courageous and loving. They have embraced hope, even as they struggle to erase from their hearts the scars left by exile, abuse and violent loss.
‘They see themselves as women bearing the image of God, who can use their hands to knit peace and reconciliation with themselves and their neighbours.’

They belong to the group Mujeres de la Memoria (Women of Memory), and together they have found in art a simple way to express what hurts them. With needle and thread, they weave their memories of the countryside, their painful past and their dreams.

As they weave, they think and talk about their new roles in the community. They see themselves as women bearing the image of God, who can use their hands to knit peace and reconciliation with themselves and their neighbours.

Written by

Written by  Isabel Orozco Álvarez

Isabel Orozco Álvarez is a theologian and artist in Medellín, Colombia

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