In 2002, the first two FOR volunteers made the muddy trek up a mountainside to accompany the San José de Apartadó peace community — a project of campesinos in northwestern Colombia who had declared themselves neutral five years earlier, committing to nonviolent resistance in the midst of war.
In the 10 years since, more than 30 volunteers have been international observers as part of the Colombia Peace Presence, and spent a portion of their lives there — amidst the heat, rain and intense green, with the sounds of helicopters above, waking to gun shots fired in the night, five river crossings away from the nearest city, without a refrigerator and with the incredible life stories of these campesinos who have much to teach us about war, nonviolence and the story of their resistance.
That’s what members of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community in Colombia have had to face just in the past month.
Germán GracianoOn July 30 and July 31, Germán Graciano (right), a peace community leader, received phone calls from men who identified themselves as the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group. The paramilitaries demanded he start collaborating with them or “purchase coffins for himself and his family.”
Join us in celebrating an amazing decade of FOR’s accompaniment in Colombia.
For 15 years, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó has organized, spoken out, marched, and built a global network of allies; against dramatic odds, in spite of more than 180 community members having been killed, these brave farmers have managed to stay on their lands. This feat is hard for us in the global North to imagine — the courage it takes to face death and stay put.
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By Amanda Jack, CPP team
“What kind of people would treat a house like this?” This was the simple question asked out loud by one of the women in the work group we had accompanied to Mulatos. The group of 17, mostly men and some women, had spent the last week making a home out of an abandoned and abused house in a far-flung corner of the district of San José de Apartadó. The land and house, belonging to a community member, is an eight-hour, muddy, and up-mountain walk from San Josecito. It is located in an area that stands out in the collective memory of the community as the site of massive displacement and murder in the violent ’90s and as the site of the brutal massacre in February 2005. Nevertheless, careful planning and coordination had brought this group together, along with FOR’s accompaniment, to a house that had clearly seen better days.
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