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.
We are there because we believe in the peace community’s struggle.
We believe that U.S. citizens must stand up and do something about what the United States is doing in our name, to other people’s lands. We believe in accompaniment — the power of regular people whose presence and political work protects others from death, displacement or exile.
We believe that nonviolence works. We know that the war machine is strong, and that words are our only weapon, but we also know that in these past 10 years, we have stood in the way of death to protect life.
Like any human relationship worth its salt, the last decade that FOR has spent with the community has been both full of hard times and highlighted with good.
When the paramilitaries imposed a food blockade on the road to the community, we accompanied leaders, ensuring that they and their food got across. We accompanied the return of people to their lands in the village of La Esperanza. We’ve climbed trees to get fruits in season and cheered at soccer games.
When the community got news that one of their leaders and seven others were massacred, we accompanied them to the site to find out what happened. Later we witnessed the transformation of Mulatos from a village known for that brutal massacre to a sacred site that symbolizes peace. When Don Gilberto lost his leg to a land mine, we were there to accompany the rescue mission, in the night, in the rain, down the hill so that he could safely get to a hospital. And each year we have celebrated Christmas, Easter and baptisms of the newly born alongside the community members.
We will be there next March to celebrate 15 years that San José de Apartadó has been nonviolently resisting in the midst of a brutal war. And we are committed to staying there as long as our presence is needed to keep them alive.
To show our gratitude for your donation, for every gift of $50 and above we will send you a box of cards beautifully designed by one of our current volunteers.
And for those who donate $100 or more, we will send you a t-shirt, also designed by a current volunteer.