We were saddened to hear that Anlly Paola Guzman passed away April 12th in Medellin in the early hours of the morning due to complications after surgery. The death of Paola, only 17 years old, was very sudden and unexpected. Her funeral was held in La Unión and hundreds of people attended the vigil and funeral. We are heartbroken by this loss, and frustrated by the various forms of State violence that continue to impact the lives of the Peace Community.
FOR Peace Presence turned 15 years old in 2017. Throughout these past years, we have learned valuable lessons, made lasting relationships with incredibly brave human rights defenders and grown as an organization. We are proud to remain committed to protecting land, life and dignity in Colombia, and providing protective accompaniment to some of the most at-risk and marginalized communities throughout the country. Our partners continue to be a source of inspiration for us on a daily basis. Their committment to peace has demonstrated the power that nonviolence and strong communities have to create real, lasting change for future generations in Colombia.
Maria Eugenia, or Maru as she is known to those close to her, has been working for peace in Colombia since she was a young teenager. In 1991, after her uncle was killed, she felt angry and hateful about the conflict in Colombia. A friend encouraged her to not let her rage turn into vengeance, but instead use it to help transform communities most affected by the violence into places building sustainable peace. With this encouragement, she began to volunteer with the Interchurch Peace and Justice Commission and create real change for communities across Colombia. She believes that women, “as creators of life,” play an important role in human rights work because, “we can feel a greater responsibility in the defense of life and rights. Not just because we are mothers, but because we generate life.”
It’s been over a year since I first hopped off the plane and arrived in Colombia, and although I’m writing now from Bogota, it’s the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó that was my base for almost that entire time. I can’t speak for everyone, but my time in the Peace Community certainly influenced me. I don’t know if I really have the words to explain how, so bear with me.
It’s been a little over one full year since I left the United States and moved to Colombia to work with FOR Peace Presence. I’ve been thinking a lot about where the time has gone, what’s changed, and what hasn’t.
This year, I learned about isolation and connection. How to stay close to the people I love, even if they are far away. I learned about just how difficult it can be to connect to people from a vastly different experience than me, and that maybe I’m not as open hearted as I’d like to think I am. I saw first-hand the effects of an economic system that privileges the Global North and tyrannizes the Global South.