The Power of Granting Forgiveness

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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The Power of Granting Forgiveness

By Susana Pimiento

The Power of Granting ForgivenessApril 9th marked the seventeenth anniversary of the killing of Manuel Cepeda Vargas, a Colombian Senator with the left-wing political party Union Patriotica (UP). For the first time, this year there was formal recognition of the wrong that occurred nearly two decades ago. This is a result of a 2010 ruling by the Inter American Human Rights Court that found the Colombian state responsible for the killing of Cepeda Vargas, and which ordered it to “organize a public act of acknowledgment of international responsibility for the facts”.

The April 9th solemn act, held in Congress and presided over by the Colombian Interior Minister, was quite remarkable. In a country where 98% of human rights crimes pass without a conviction, on behalf of the State, the Minister accepted responsibility and asked forgiveness.
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