Twenty-six-year-old Juan Sebastián Pacheco Lozano is uniquely qualified for his position as the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) participant serving at Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) United Nations Office this year.
From 2011 to 2013, Pacheco Lozano learned a lot about how to address issues of violence, poverty and oppression as one of 10 participants in MCC’s Seed program in Colombia. Seed brings together young adults from around the world to address issues at the grassroots level.
During Seed, Pacheco Lozano partnered with Mennonite Brethren churches in Colombia to lead workshops on conflict resolution, nonviolence and Anabaptist history. This gave him a chance to learn first-hand how church communities can be positive forces for change in their local contexts.
He also partnered with grassroots, nonprofit organizations, promoting organizational capacity development and collaborating with local leaders to advance their shared goal of building peaceful communities.
Pacheco Lozano, a member of Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá, Colombia, said the Seed program enabled him to learn from and collaborate with people from diverse political, theological and cultural backgrounds.
Now he’s bringing all that knowledge and experience he gained at the local level to the global arena.
At the U.N., Pacheco Lozano is working on issues that directly impact his fellow Colombians, including mining safety, water quality and sanitation, as well as issues that reflect the priorities of MCC’s global partners in other regions of the world.
“Our IVEPers help bring the voice of the global south to our work at the U.N.,” explained Doug Hostetter, director of the MCC U.N. office. “They bring a passion for peace and justice work rooted in their local contexts.”
For each of the past nine years, one IVEP participant has served at the MCC office at the U.N. as part of an internship that is jointly administered by MCC and Mennonite World Conference (MWC). Interns are drawn from congregations of MWC member churches.
Each year, IVEP volunteers come from more than 25 countries to work in the U.S. or Canada through the yearlong cultural exchange program facilitated by MCC.
Pacheco Lozano said one highlight of his work at the U.N. so far was the chance to hear Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos speak at the U.N. General Assembly in September about the peace process between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group.
Pacheco Lozano listened with a renewed sense of hope as his country’s president described new advances in the process and declared, “Colombia is on the path to peace.”