News

The land you love

By Liza Smith

The land you love
 This is a picture of the land I love. It is a piece of land in Colorado where I’ve gone every summer for the last quarter-century — most of my life — and I would be devastated if it were taken away from me.

In Colombia, many people also have a deep relationship to their land. It is where they grow their food, it is a place of memories, family, community, and spiritual traditions.

But more than five million people in Colombia have been forced to leave the land that is most dear to them. In this year alone, 15 leaders who were struggling to have their lands returned to them have been assassinated.
READ MORE >>>

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.
READ MORE >>>

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.
READ MORE >>>

New Video: Demilitarize Your Life!

By Liza Smith

Daniel Serna Henao is one of four conscientious objectors to be recognized by a court in Medellín, Colombia. Here, he tells his story.
READ MORE >>>

The Hike That Kills

By Liza Smith

Friday, December 3, 2010, 12:19pm

by Jon Patberg, current Accompaniment Team Member in Colombia

I recently came back from a six day accompaniment journey to a remote village called Mulatos about 16 miles to the northeast of La Union. Mulatos is the site of the 2005 massacre in which community leader and ideologue, Luis Eduardo Guerra, his wife, his son and two other community members were murdered, dismembered and buried alongside the river by paramilitary groups. Since then, the village was vacated and has slowly re-populated as people came back from displacement. In addition, the peace community has made Mulatos its future center of operations, both because of its memorial importance and because of its geographic centrality amongst the villages of the peace community.
READ MORE >>>