By Charlotte Melly
February brought two important dates for the Peace Community and FOR. February 7 marked a decade of FOR´s permanent peace presence: ten years since community members greeted the first volunteers and hiked with them up to La Unión, ten years of opening space for nonviolent resistance to the Colombian conflict, ten years of internationals sharing intense moments of joy, happiness, sadness, suffering and the adversities of community life.
February 21 saw the commemoration of one of those times of adversity, one of the many arduous, painful moments the community has had to endure in their long struggle for survival. It marks seven years since Luis Eduardo Guerra, one of the Peace Community´s founders and strongest leaders, was brutally murdered, along with seven others, including a five-year-old and an 18-month-old.
To commemorate this event, members from several Peace Community settlements came together in the “Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village,” where a small chapel marks the location his life was violently taken from him. We listened to an interview on a cassette, which he gave about his life, about the project of the Peace Community, about nonviolent resistance. The strength and conviction with which he spoke sent a chill through the collective body of those present, since the sound of his voice, the articulation of his ideas and the strength of his belief in this project are in sharp contrast to his physical absence. We reflected upon the ways that life must grow from death, that struggle must grow from pain, that hope must grow from desperation.
Then we walked together to the location that the other bodies were found. We listened to the events that took place that day, February 21, 2005. One of the paramilitaries present later testified that he had objected to the killing of the children, but that other soldiers and paramilitaries reasoned that they were only going to become guerrillas some day anyway. The paramilitary who objected was asked to leave and as he walked away, he looked back over his shoulder to where the five-year-old girl was being hacked to pieces with a machete.
Then-President Uribe´s reaction to the massacre was to claim that Peace Community members were FARCsympathizers. The military-paramilitary collusion was so evident in this instance that it prompted the Peace Community to declare a state of rupture with the Colombian state. This rupture, a refusal to enter into dialogue with the state, continues to this day. This is because the state and state authorities still refuse to recognize their role and complicity in the atrocities which have befallen this community, and state forces continually fail to comply with the rules laid down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to respect Peace Community property.
An immense military presence and violations of Peace Community property throughout the month are again reminders of the violence and the ongoing war. They are also reminders of FOR´s anniversary, an entire decade of international presence, of our role and our purpose here. And my feelings on this are bittersweet. On the one hand, it represents a success that I can be proud to be part of: we continue to open space for this community to exist, to struggle, and to survive. And on the other hand, it is a depressing reminder of the continuation of conflict: of the stagnant state of affairs in this apparently never-ending, purposeless war, whose conclusion remains out of sight even after all these years of struggle. It is amazing to see how this situation continues to breed resistance, a resistance that will be celebrated this month with the anniversary on March 24 of the Peace Community´s 15 years of existence.
To help us commemorate our ten years of work in Colombia, check out our special anniversary page.
March 2, 2012