In that place, many years ago, my life was cut. I want to thank you London, because here was the place I could start my life again.

Ana Victoria Bastidas arrived in the UK from Colombia more than twenty years ago, after being kidnapped by armed traffickers in the Colombian jungle. She has now made her home in London, and in 2008 began her journey to becoming the first female Colombian priest in the Anglican Church. She will be ordained on July 1 2017 at St Paul's Cathedral.

London was the place I could start my life again. I started exploring my spirituality and my faith inside the Church of England. Along the way I found many people who helped me to know more about the Anglican Church and how they opened their hands to women to become priests.

In the late 1990s, Ana Victoria, originally a bacteriologist, was kidnapped while working with an indigenous community in the remote Colombian jungle. She was held captive for several days before being released and leaving Colombia for the UK. 

I feel positive, and I am going to do something for this country that opened its heart to me. In my local church I feel God has opened a door for me, to do a job that can contribute to the local people here.

Ana Victoria is one of hundreds of thousands of migrants who left Colombia during over 50 years of armed conflict in the country. 2016 finally saw an end to hostilities, with an historic peace agreement signed between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia. 
She helped to establish the Truth, Memory and Reconciliation Commission of Colombian Women in the Diaspora (TMRC) – an initiative supported by Conciliation Resources that brings together Colombian women living in London to share their stories and memories of conflict and migration, and to claim a voice in Colombia’s peace process.  Ana Victoria explains:

What the commission did was bring together all these women who left Colombia for one reason or another, who felt great pain in silence.

Just days after Ana Victoria’s ordination, these women will help to launch this year’s Women and War festival, with a whole day dedicated to Colombian women conflict survivors, migrants, community leaders and peacebuilders on 4 July. One of the highlights of the festival will be a monologue of Ana Victoria’s story, presented by renowned Colombian actress Alejandro Borrero.
Celebrating the resilience of the women and their power to be role models, the day will also include a photography exhibition, Imagine Peace which features portraits and accounts of different members of the TMRC, as well as poetry, a musical performance and a screening of Breaking the Silence – a short documentary film about the TMRC’s work. 
In this short video, Ana Victoria discusses her journey to becoming an Anglican priest.