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.
During the last months we have been repeatedly alarmed about the dramatically increasing rates of threats and attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia. Since the start of 2018, over 100 Human Rights defenders have been killed. Seemingly, the situation has become even more violent, during and after the presidential elections, with the new president coming into office this week. 24 human rights leaders were killed just between the months of June and July, averaging almost one human rights defender per day. The number even spiked in the first week of July with nine Human Rights Leaders killed in only four days.
These developments have impacted our work on the ground. We have received a steady increase of general and emergency petitions to walk with and advocate for the safety of social activists and communities, who receive threats, or even attacks. During a visit to Colombia last week, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst expressed his concern about these increasing assassinations of Human Rights Defenders, and highlighted their crucial role in constructing peace in Colombia. Alberto Brunori, the Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) in Colombia, also stressed that the situation for human rights defenders is very serious.
These human rights defenders are our hope for peace in Colombia! We would like to share at least a few lines about some of them, who do stand for many, knowing that their doings can never be resumed so shortly.
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.
“A human rights defender is someone who consciously acts on their profound sensitivity for life, and who does it in act of love and commitment for the lives of others.”
Since 2014, FORPP has accompanied Human Rights activist Enrique Chimonja Coy, member of the Intereclesial Commission of Justice and Peace. We accompany him to the city of Buenaventura and in the rivers of San Juan, Calima, and Naya, home to indigenous and afro-descendent communities who are survivors of the armed conflict.
Amanda ‘AJ’ Jack
Saludos y abrazos a tod@s los queridos miembros de la Comunidad de Paz! Aunque han pasado casi 10 anos desde me despedí de ustedes, llevo las memorias de mi tiempo viviendo en La Unión y trabajando con FOR en la Comunidad de Paz siempre en mi corazón. Recuerdo los bailes y los partidos de fútbol, y las madrugadas chismoseando y los caminos llenos de lodo y las noches pasando tiempo en frente la casita de FOR, riendo y bromeando. Recuerdo especialmente el momento en que me caí tan enferma que ustedes tuvieron que llevarme en una hamaca desde La Unión hasta San Josecito para ir al hospital. Me salvaron este día.
Pero la verdad es que me salvaron todo los días que compartí con ustedes. Me salvaron por mostrarme el poder de la Comunidad y la resistencia pacífica en construir un futuro mejor. Me salvaron por ayudarme entender que la significa “acompañar” – como estar en solidaridad con comunidades en resistencia, como apoyar a los líderes, como ustedes, quienes arriesgan todo para alcanzar la paz. Gracias por brindarme esta experiencia.
Ahora tengo una hija, ella nació en marzo de este año – se llama Avonel. Estoy contándole cuentos de me tiempo en Colombia y, por supuesto, le canto el himno de la Comunidad de Paz. “Vamos todos adelante, con cariño y mucho amor….” Todos ustedes se quedan en mi corazón. Si Dios quiere, voy a hacer una visita algún día en el futuro con mi familia. Hasta entonces, sigo pensando en ustedes cada día de mi vida.
Greetings and hugs to all of the dear members of the Peace Community! Although almost 10 years have passed since I said goodbye to you, I carry memories of my time living in La Union and working with FOR in the Peace Community with me in my heart. I remember dances and soccer matches, mornings gossiping and t-shirts full of mud, and nights spent in front of the FOR house, laughing and making jokes. I especially remember the moment that I became so ill that I had to be carried down from La Union in a hammock to San Josecito, to go to the hospital. The community saved me this day.
But the truth is that I was saved every day that I shared with you. I was saved when you showed me the power of the Community and pacifist resistance to construct a better future. I was saved when you helped me understand the meaning of “accompaniment” – how to be in solidarity with communities in resistance, and how to support leaders like yourselves, who risked everything to have peace. Thank you for this experience.
Now I have a daughter, she was born in March of this year – her name is Avonel. I tell her stories about my time in Colombia, and of course, I have taught her the Peace Community hymnal. “Vamos todos Adelante, con cariño y mucho amor…” All of you have a place in my heart. If God wishes it, I will visit some day in the future with my family. Until then, I will continue to think about you all each day of my life.