We have good news from our team! We are happy to introduce Manuel as our new Program and Communications Coordinator. Manuel joined the team on November 1 and we are very excited for him to support us and to contribute his experience to FOR Peace Presence.
Manuel grew up in Zurich, Switzerland and completed a Master’s degree in Human Geography with a specialization in Political Geography, during which he wrote his thesis on the tension between collective and individual rights in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. He worked on land and territorial rights in Argentina, later with a Swiss NGO in the field of agroecology, and then was an international accompanier for Peace Brigades International (PBI) in Colombia from 2019-2021. His time with PBI motivated him to continue working for human rights and non-violent resistance in Colombia.
Upon his arrival, Manuel reflects:
During my time in Colombia, I experienced many impactful moments. In the Urabá region, I witnessed how the initial euphoria over the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrillas gave way to disillusionment. Violence against human rights defenders has increased sharply since the agreement was signed. Just a few weeks ago, an indigenous activist was killed in the region whose hospitality I had the privilege of enjoying last year. In the first half of the current year, I accompanied the Paro Nacional (Civil Strike) protests firsthand. I was shocked by the brutal police repression that was responsible for at least 28 of the 87 deaths.
These experiences taught me what one is often not aware of as a privileged European. When I attended demonstrations in Switzerland, my friends and family motivated me to participate. Here in Colombia, I have friends whose environment and community strongly dissuades them from participating in the demonstrations. Parents do not let their children protest for fear that they will be killed in the exercise of their civil rights and will not come back home. These experiences, but also my commitment to human rights, motivated me to get involved with FOR Peace Presence and to keep working hand in hand with Colombian human rights defenders.