Tormentas en La Unión, Comunidad de Paz

Tormentas en La Unión, Comunidad de Paz

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De repente, la vida en La Unión, parte de la Comunidad de Paz, puede convertirse en turbulenta. Las cosas han estado muy tranquilo recientemente, entonces la mayoría de los disturbios vienen en la forma de una manada de caballos quienes han organizado sus propias carreras corriendo por la casa, o intentando a ubicar el helicóptero encima pero encontrando solamente un colibrí o dos bien ruidosos. Pero a veces los disturbios cambian en huracanes y son un poco menos maravillosos.

El miércoles pasado y hasta el jueves golpeó una tormenta enorme en La Unión. La lluvia caía en cortinas en los techos de zinc y creaba un enrejado de quebradas miniaturas entre todas las casas. Los vendavales arrancaron por el caserío, sacando cosas y tumbándolas, mientras que los relámpagos golpearon por lo menos dos secadoras. La Unión ya sigue sin luz por más que 13 días.

El mismo miércoles, una tormenta de otra variedad llegó cuando los primeros diecisiete soldados de la Brigada Móvil 24 pasaron por La Unión. Ni unos minutos después, más llegaron a través, y más. En total, sobre 50 pasaron por el caserío.

La Comunidad de Paz se fundó hace más que diecisiete años por principios específicamente removiendo a los miembros de la Comunidad del conflicto. Incluye no provenir ningún apoyo logístico a ningún actor armado ni tenerlos dentro de espacios comunitarios, no tener ni apoyar armas de ningún tipo y decir “no”a la injusticia y la impunidad. En el medio de una de las zonas más calientes, más combativos de Colombia, la Comunidad se unió y declaró que los miembros eran afuera, y respetuosamente pidieron que desde allí, los actores de cualquier grupo armado eviten el área. Se consedó medidas primero cautelares, y entonces provisionales de la Corte Interamericana que las protegen y validan este estándar. La última vez que demoraban unas fuerzas militares en frente de las casas de La Unión fue hace sobre seis años.

Esta vez los soldados pasaron justamente como otro hurracán. Cuando representantes de la Comunidad y acompañantes de FOR, quienes también viven en La Unión, fueron para hablar con unos de ellos, sus líderes hablaron en tonos respetuosos mientras reconocer que aunque habían visto las vallas de la Comunidad antes (que marcan la tierra y listan los principios de la Comunidad), eligieron de todos modos caminar por allí. Dijeron que estaban esperando apoyo de uno de sus soldados, quien estaba enfermo, y que lo habían dejado en el otro lado del caserío. No importa que esta era todavía la tierra que trabaja la Comunidad, y que no eran permitidos estar allí incluso antes de que se enfermaba. Cuando uno de los grupos más pequeños paró para descansar cerca de la malla, pero todavía dentro, y de nuevo les hablaron, unos soldados se disculparon por estar en la Comunidad. Otros se negaron de disculparse y declararon, “¡Este es Colombia!”y “Lo que pasa al enfermo es responsabilidad de ustedes.” Cuando otro soldado empezó a cruzar, después de la mayoría de su tropa había ido, y se acercaron aún más miembros de la Comunidad, postuló, “Bueno, los otros pasaron por aquí, entonces yo, también,” y así hizo.

La Comunidad de Paz significa justo eso – un espacio por la no guerra. Según la teoría de la Comunidad, donde hay un grupo de actores armados, incluso militares, seguro que siguen los otros grupos armados. Para evitar el conflicto, la Comunidad ha escogido evitar los actores armados totalmente, y en vez de eso convivir y trabajar juntos, para crear la paz que ven por este mundo. Y después de diecisiete años de declararse así y vivir sus principios, todavía hay violaciones de sus esperanzas y sus derechos.

Storms in La Unión, Peace Community

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10320506_3475925776566_9061500698343788894_nLife in La Unión, part of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, can quickly become turbulent. Things have been fairly quiet recently, so most of the disturbances come in the form of a pack of horses blasting by, or trying to locate the chopper overhead, only to find an incredibly loud hummingbird or two. But sometimes the disturbances turn into hurricanes and are a little less delightful.

Last Wednesday and into Thursday struck a whopping storm upon La Unión. Rain fell in sheets on the tin roofs and created a lattice of miniature rivers between all of the houses. Gales tore through the village, picking things up and knocking them over, as lightning hit and struck down at least two of the cacao-drying racks. La Unión now continues without power going on 13 days.

That same Wednesday afternoon, a storm of a different variety arrived when a group of seventeen soldiers from the 24th Mobile Brigade of the Colombian Armed Forces marched through La Unión. Not a few minutes later, more trickled through, and then more. In all, around 50 soldiers passed through the neighborhood.

The Peace Community was founded over seventeen years ago on principles pointedly meant to protect Community members from further involvement in the war. These are individuals from regions near and far that came together with a common goal after having been displaced, persecuted, and threatened. Their principles include not providing logistical help to any of the armed actors, maintaining all Community spaces as zones which are free of the presence of armed actors, not possessing or supporting arms or weapons of any kind, and saying “No” to injustice and impunity. In the middle of one of the hottest, most combative zones in Colombia, the Community came together and declared that they were not going to take part in the war. They respectfully requested that from that moment on, actors from any armed group, legal or illegal, avoid the area. They were first granted precautionary, then provisional measures from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights which protect them and validate this standard. The last time military forces hung out in front of the houses of La Unión was six years ago.

This time the soldiers passed through like just another hurricane. When representatives from the Community and FOR accompaniers, who also live in La Unión, went to speak with some of them, their leaders spoke in respectful tones while acknowledging that although they had seen the Community signs earlier (marking the land and listing Community Principles), they chose to walk through anyway. They said that they were waiting for support for a sick soldier who they had left on the other side of the neighborhood. Never mind the fact that this was land on which the Community lives and works, and that as armed forces, the military were not permitted to be there regardless of the circumstance. When one of the smaller groups of soldiers stopped to rest toward the edge of the village, we again approached them to speak further and reiterate that they respect the Community’s space. Some soldiers excused themselves for being within the bounds of the Community. Others refused to excuse themselves and declared, “This is Colombia!” and “Whatever happens to the sick soldier is your responsibility.” When another soldier started to cross through, after most of his troop had already gone, he was approached by still more Community members and posited, “Well, the rest of them went through this way, so I’m going here, too,” and he did.

The Peace Community means just that – a community space which intends to strive for peace even while surrounded by war. According to the theory of the Community, where there is one group of armed actors, including military, other armed groups are sure to follow. In order to avoid conflict, the Community has chosen to avoid armed actors altogether, and to instead live and work together, constructing their own alternatives to the ever-present conflict around them. After seventeen years of declaring themselves as such and living their principles, there are still violations on their wishes and their rights.

Today: A decade of protection in Colombia

By FOR Colombia

Today: A decade of protection in Colombia
On February 7, 2002, the first FOR human rights accompaniment team arrived to accompany the people of La Union in Colombia. Today as we celebrate FOR’s tenth anniversary of presence in the peace community, we are members of a community full of life: there is music playing, seeds being planted, corn and yucca and sugar cane being harvested, and babies being born.

Join us in celebrating an amazing decade of FOR’s accompaniment in Colombia.

Make a donation today to support this work!

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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Homecomings to Far Away Places

By Liza Smith

Foristas in front of the new La Union library

What does it mean to be connected to a place that is not your own, to people who are strange and different from you, to a way of life that will never be yours?

We pondered these questions over the last two weeks with a group of former FOR volunteers who “returned” to Colombia. For almost ten years (our 10th anniversary in Colombia will be in February of 2012), FOR has maintained a permanent international presence in the peace community of San José de Apartadó and over 30 volunteers have spent up to a year of their lives accompanying La Union, one of the peace community settlements. After their time as volunteers, they go home to get on with their lives. Of the ten people who came back for the “Forista reunion, two had become lawyers, two are getting doctorates in academia, there was a future nurse, a tireless organizer, an executive director of a small non profit and a wanderer, who had traveled far and wide to understand more deeply the experiences and lives of women in Latin America. But it turned out that accompaniment wasn’t a one way deal — in the streets of New York city, on the bus in Argentina, in the classrooms of San Francisco, none of them could shake what had happened to them here, in a small village in northeastern Colombia.
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