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    Perspectives on Peace: Karen and Rubén Darío from Punte Icaco

    “Today, we are again worried… about invisible borders that prevent us from crossing from one neighborhood to another…”

    Three years ago last Sunday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government signed a historic ceasefire agreement, marking what was thought to be one of the last steps before the final Peace Accords and a laying down of arms in favor of peace. Today, we are reflecting on the changes that the Peace Accords has brought to Colombia. From our accompaniments in terrain and from the voices of our own partners, we have seen and heard renewed hope that the Accords would begin a new era of peace. Now, just three years later, many feel frustrated as attacks against social leaders continue to rise, and communities attempting to remain on their territories and build sustainable peace are continually put at risk.

    But you don’t have to take our word it. Over the next few weeks we are bringing you Perspectives on Peace, videos of social leaders in different parts of Colombia sharing their first-hand accounts of what’s happening in their communities.

    Coinciding with Pride Month, we start with two voices from the Punte Icaco Humanitarian Space in the city of Buenaventura, on Colombia’s Pacific coast. Members of the CONPAZ (Communities Constructing Peace in the Territories) network, they share their perspectives about the ongoing violence in Buenaventura, and in particular the harassment and violence against the LGBTQIA+ community.

    (Make sure that subtitles are on when you watch the videos)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Karen is the legal representative for the LGBTI community in Buenaventura and a CONPAZ leader in Punte Icaco. She is concerned about paramilitary recruitment and recent threats against her personally.

    Click here to hear Karen’s perspective. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Rubén Darío is part of the LGBTI community in Punte Icaco and a leader with CONPAZ. He is concerned about the ongoing violence against LGBTI people and the impunity for assailants.

    Click here to hear Rubén’s perspective. 

     

     

     

     

    A Letter to Our Supporters

    Dear Friends,

    You have been an essential part of our accompaniment project from afar, and we know that your love and support of our partners is just as strong as ours. As you may know, we (as well as many other accompaniment organizations) have been going through a period of financial difficulty. This, combined with a changing political context since Colombia’s peace accord, led us to take a moment to reflect upon our work. Consequently, we scaled back our accompaniment work and began evaluating and planning how to proceed in a more financially sustainable way, while still effectively responding to Colombia’s most urgent issues.

    We have had a permanent presence in the Peace Community of San Jose for more than 16 years. Our partnership with the Peace Community is our longest standing to date, but we were forced to the painful decision to end our permanent presence in October. However, we believe this transition speaks to the changing political context in Colombia as well as to our own current capacity.

    In post-peace accord Colombia, social leaders across the board have been increasingly threatened and attacked at alarming rates. Reports show that it has become especially dangerous for land and environmental defenders, as the country moves toward an economic model dependent on extractive and environmentally damaging industries like mining and large-scale agro-business. In this context, and with various limitations on our funding, it is urgent for us to focus our resources on these leaders and communities who are at high risk — and also play a critical role in global efforts to combat climate change and environmental degradation.

    Therefore, in 2019 and 2020 we will work to increase visibility and advocacy for land and environmental defenders in Colombia. Together with CONPAZ communities on the front lines, we will design grassroots campaigns to strengthen international coalitions with fellow organizations that work for environmental justice, bridging these front line environmental defenders with international efforts for climate justice.

    These changes do not mean we will stop collaborating with our long-standing partners. We will continue to provide political support for the Association of Conscientious Objectors of Colombia (ACOOC) and, make punctual visits to the farming community El Nilo. Although we will no longer provide a permanent accompaniment presence to the Peace Community of San José, we will continue to make periodic visits and provide ongoing political accompaniment.

    This new direction speaks both to our own strengths as an international accompaniment organization, and also responds to the most pressing needs of our partners. The defense of land and environment is not only a Colombian issue–as temperatures rise and environmental disasters become increasingly devastating, the protection of our environment and lands has become an issue of increasingly pressing need across the globe.

    As this new phase begins, we are working with our partners to expand the possible scope of our activities and looking to make co-created strategies. These strategies will include what we have always done– physical presence, political advocacy, and movement building– while also trying to be creative with our partners to see how our presence can be best used.

    But we cannot do this without you! Please consider making your tax-deductible donation today online here or by sending a check.

     

    And as always, we invite you to write us with your comments and questions. We would love to hear from you!

    In solidarity,

    FOR Peace Presence