This month we worked as a team of three in Bogotá with Gale, Michaela, and Kaya, while Isabel and Nikki continue FOR Peace Presence’s permanent accompaniment, living in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó.
In September, the Bogotá team physically accompanied for 17 days in Cundinamarca, Atlántico, Cesar, Santa Marta, and Valle de Cauca, La Guajira and Sucre – a new record! Additionally, we organized 4 joint meetings with Embassies and our accompanied partners and a meeting with the Human Rights Unit of the Colombian Ministry of Defense. We released 5 written pieces on our Peace Presence webpage – check out our News section of our website to stay up-to-date.
As military presence surrounding the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was a constant in September, our team has not only been present in the hamlet of La Unión, but also responded to the community’s movements. Nikki and Isa made the long, 5-hour, muddy trek to accompany a community leader to and in the Peace Community hamlet of Mulatos, where the 2005 massacre took place.
At the beginning of September we responded to the petition of communities in Nilo, Cundinamarca to stand witness to the continued destruction of their habitat, now on behalf of extractive activities, as dredgers from a sand extraction company devastate the local Sumapaz River. Communities first settled in this area around 1920 and in 1954 the military training base of Tolemaida was installed in close proximity and all land was given to the military. Today Tolemaida is one of the biggest military training bases in Colombia and attempts to displace these communities despite several state protections in favor of the communities. Check out our facebook photo album to learn in detail about the different threats the community of Nilo faces.
With our partner Tierra Digna, a Colombian collective of laywers, we accompanied the event “For life, dignity and integrity: Guarantees for communities in mining zones” in the department of Cesar, one of the most active open pit coal mining areas in Colombia. Communities and environmental and human rights defenders came together to exchange experiences and learn about new strategies to confront extractive industries’ affects on more communities throughout Colombia. If you want to learn more about the work of Tierra Digna and this struggle, and you happen to live in the US, we will hopefully see you during the upcoming FOR Peace Presence Tour with Tierra Digna! (see below).
While accompanying in the Humanitarian Space of Buenaventura, news from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arrived and brought hope. Protective Measures, called “preventive measures” or ‘medidas cuatelares’ have at long last been approved – these measures will cover more than 1000 people, who stand for an alternative to violence in the midst of one of the most violent cities in all of Colombia. Now concrete protections, such as a school bus for the children and an armored car for the leaders of the space, have to be implemented by the Colombian state. We hope to contribute to a fast implementation by insistently reminding out different national and international agencies of their obligations.
On Colombia’s Human Rights Day, we accompanied a Human Chain protest, formed by 1200 farmers who are victims of the armed conflict in the area of Montes de Maria in the department of Sucre and Bolivar. These farmers not only demand the liberation of their imprisoned leader Jorge Montes, but also demand that the government fulfill agreements reached after a Peace March in April of 2013. In March 2014, FOR Peace Presence had visited the zone of Montes de Maria with our 2014 FOR International Delegation.
Speaking of delegations – In September we announced our upcoming 2015 FOR Peace Presence Delegation to Colombia. The program will focus on our core partners and the struggle over land throughout Colombia. If you’d like to take part in this on-the-ground educational experience in Colombia, join us: What’s Land Got To Do With It? Prospects and Challenges to Lasting Peace in Colombia.
We are very excited to share with you that after some busy weeks of preparation, one of the two joint-FOR Peace Presence Speaking Tours began in September. Mario Cardozo received the Mohammad Ali Humanitarian Award in Louisville, Kentucky and is now on the East Coast, where he will be until the end of October. Mario was declared Colombia’s first conscientious objector for non-religious reasons, and he is there sharing his music and experience.
And as for our second speaking tour – we had some very exciting moments in the month of September. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights confirmed a hearing on forced displacement due to mega-projects in Colombia with Johana Rocha of Tierra Digna, and 8 other Colombian organizations. FOR Peace Presence accompanier Kaya and human rights defender Johana Rocha of our partner organization Tierra Digna will be on a US speaking tour from October 24 – November 16. They will be traveling through Washington DC, New York, and the Bay Area, California, sharing with audiences the links between multinational extractivism and human rights abuses in Colombia, and how communities have sculpted alternatives in the face of displacement by large-scale development projects. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to hear Johana speak in your city!
We cannot do this work alone – it requires various forms of support. Sometimes we put up calls to action on our Facebook or website, and sometimes we ask you to write to your local members of congress. If you can take a moment today to donate to FOR Peace Presence, it will help ensure that we can continue our physical, protective accompaniment along-side partners in the field, as well as our political advocacy and movement building work. Your help remains invaluable to this cause.
FOR Peace Presence Team
Candice, Michaela, Kaya, Gale, Isabel, and Nikki
This week we are excited to send our first email update as FOR Peace Presence to our grassroots community. We are eager to share with you the evolution of our ongoing work in Colombia as we continue with our transition from a project of Fellowship of Reconciliation USA (FOR USA) to our own independent organization that is part of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) family. Here’s what we have been up to in the past few months:
In recent months, we’ve been saddened and concerned as other international accompaniment and solidarity organizations face difficulty funding and maintaining their teams on the ground. We are doing our best to respond to an increased demand for accompaniment here in Colombia and to be here for the long haul. In response to this increased demand, we’ve started traveling to the Afro-Colombian port city of Buenaventura to accompany the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission and their work with the incredibly courageous people of the Puente Nyero Humanitarian Space.
Additionally, two members of our team just returned from the northern Guajira Department where they observed a People’s Consultation, a community-led endeavor to publicly examine the impacts of mining on territories and communities in La Guajira. This region is undergoing a major drought and environmental and social ills directly associated with the Cerrejón mine, the largest open-pit coal mine in Colombia, and we urge you to sign this petition in solidarity with the affected communities.
We regularly update our website (www.peacepresence.org), our Twitter (https://twitter.com/Peace_Presence), and our Facebook (www.facebook.com/PeacePresence) with the latest happenings on our team and with our partners.
Our work is still needed at this critical moment, and with your support, we continue to stand with Colombian communities and organizations engaged in active nonviolence to defend life, land, and dignity.
Please stay in touch, and thank you for joining us as we carry out this important work in Colombia and explore new paths forward! Together we are building a real and lasting peace.
FOR Peace Presence
At the moment, we’re hosting delegates from the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, showing them a little bit of Colombia, introducing them o our partners, and hoping to build connections. Lots of people wanted to come but weren’t able, so we’re able to offer the next best thing – a blog cross posted from PSR’s website (http://psr.edu/blogs/colombia2014/), detailing their experiences and impressions of Colombia. Here is their first 3 posts:
READ MORE >>>
There’s no better way to improve your understanding of active non-violence in Colombia, to demonstrate international solidarity, or to get to the heart of the global issues that are effecting the organizations and communities we work with, than by coming over and visiting!
We’re very pleased indeed to announce the International Fellowship of Reconciliation Delegation to Colombia, happening in March 2014. This is an unequaled opportunity to meet human rights activists, to build bridges and partnerships in Colombia, and to see first hand the impacts of structural violence and armed conflict in Colombia, all guided and translated (into English and German) by members of our Peace Presence team.
If you would like to join the delegation, please see this page for more information, fill out this form to apply, and send it to these email addresses: irmgardehrenberger[at]versoehnungsbund.at (for Europe) or spimiento[at]forusa.org (for America). Please send this page to anyone and everyone you think may be interesting in this truly amazing experience.
Looking forward to seeing you in 2014,
The Peace Presence Team