by Tom Power
When we arrived in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó for Christmas, former accompanier Emily and I didn’t really know what to expect. Neither of us had been there for some time, but we were excited that the Peace Community was going to have their Christmas celebration in the new “aldea” (small village), a 45 minute walk from La Unión.
The new “aldea” that the Peace Community has constructed is amazing. About a dozen families live in the newly constructed homes that overlook the Gulf of Urabá, building community through shared projects such as a flourishing garden. This “aldea” is named after Rigoberto Guzman, one of the Peace Community’s leaders who was killed in the massacre of 2000. He is one of many leaders whose bravery and commitment to the Peace Community motivates them to continue moving forward. I was inspired at their new space, and the way they have created rebirth amidst ongoing armed conflict.
Unfortunately, they need this continued resistance because the conflict in Urabá is far from over. While the FARC demobilized following the 2016 Peace Accords with the government, paramilitary groups continue to grow more powerful in San José. In the short time we were there, paramilitary groups issued death threats to the Peace Community and extorted butchers who live in the main village, just a half mile away from San Josecito- the biggest Peace Community settlement. Paramilitary groups are also charging a fee for each head of cattle owned by the residents of San José, making cattle ranching prohibitively expensive.
Of course, the Peace Community refuses to be extorted, putting them at even higher risk.
Furthermore, the 17th brigade has placed a writ for the protection of constitutional rights against the Peace Community. The 17th brigade alleges the Peace Community has damaged their “right to a good name” for saying the army is working with paramilitaries. After this alarming step taken by the 17th Brigade, various entities and organizations came out in support of the Peace Community, highlighting their right to denounce paramilitary activity and human rights violations in their region. Nonetheless, if this judicial process is successful, the Peace Community could lose their legal status in the country.
Despite these challenges, the Peace Community still celebrated Christmas, honoring how much they have accomplished. They are no strangers to these types of threats from armed actors and have over 20 years of experience resisting them. Grassroots movements such as the Peace Community are facing a difficult year, but they will not be intimidated.
The following piece and pictures were originally published in Spanish by our Accompanier Dianna E Almanza.
When I see the sunrise,
I see how mother nature awakens around me,
As if time stood still,
As if this very precise moment that I am living, were to last for a long time,
In which I am caught in a moment of profound tranquility, completely consumed by the grand beauty that surrounds me.
The earth itself that I walk on emits a profound energy, which I can’t even begin to describe,
The energy evokes many emotions within me,
I feel an immense force, an innate connection between the earth, and the guardians of the earth.
I observe the way in which the community takes care of its earth, treating it with such delicacy,
This is the same delicacy I see shown in the looks, caresses and embraces between parents and their children.
Here, I began to understand, with my own flesh and blood, the true meaning of living a life in peace, without hatred.
The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, (Antioquia), Colombia, is a collective of small scale farmers, founded in 1997 in order to resist in the midst of the armed conflict. The small scale farmers declared themselves neutral (they do not interact with any armed group), they practice nonviolence, they don´t allow any arms in their territory and they have to participate in collective working groups. In order to receive more information, in their own words (in Spanish), visit their homepage www.cdpsanjose.org or follow this link for an introduction to the Peace Community of San José the Apartadó on our homepage in English.
The following pictures represent a selection of the very beginning of a photographic memory, which, in my opinion is the most convincing representation of the incredible force, unity, beauty and above all, resilience of the community, from my perspective as International Observer and Accompanier.
 The whole collection can be found in the original publication.
On May 11th and 12th, FORPP participated in a humanitarian mission to the Naya River, along with our partners the Intereclesial Commission of Peace and Justice and CONPAZ, as well as the other accompaniment organizations PBI and Witness for Peace. We went to observe the current threats faced by the communities along the Naya River.
Para la versión en español, haz clic aquí.
Written by Kati Hinman, Human Rights Accompanier at FOR Peace Presence, from San José de Apartadó. Originally published in Charged Affairs.
¨We are sitting on gold,¨ he said, looking out past the few small houses towards the mountains of Urabá, a region of northern Colombia that has been a hotbed of the armed conflict. Having grown up in the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartadó, he was well aware of the price for their land. For 20 years, the Peace Community has remained neutral in the conflict, and non-violently resisted armed actors fighting to dominate their territory. Since the Peace Community’s founding, over 180 of its members have been assassinated, amongst hundreds of additional human rights violations. After the signing of the peace accords last year, they continue to resist various threats to their rights. The region has a huge reserve of coal, and they fear that multinational corporations will eventually push them out to build mines.
For the English version, click here.
Escrito por Kati Hinman, acompanante internacional de FOR Presente por la Paz, desde San José de Apartadó. Publicado originalmente en Charged Affairs.
“Estamos sentadxs sobre una mina de oro” dijo, mirando atrás de las pocas casitas las montañas del Urabá, una región situada en el noreste de Colombia que ha sido un semillero del conflicto armado. Al haber crecido en la Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, estaba bien enterado del precio de la tierra. Durante 20 años ahora, la Comunidad ha permanecido neutral ante el conflicto, resistiendo de manera no violenta a los actores armados luchando para dominar su territorio. Desde su creación, alrededor de 180 miembros han sido asesinados, entre centenas de otras violaciones a los derechos humanos. Después de la firma del acuerdo de paz con las FARC, siguen resistiendo a varias amenazas contra sus derechos. La región tiene una reserva enorme de carbón y temen de que empresas multinacionales podrían desalojarles para explotar minas.