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    Mapiripán: Defending Land and Memory

    After a steep descend from the Andean mountains, we enter the Eastern Plains of Colombia, the department of Meta. We follow the newly paved road into the heart of the plains. Soon after leaving the main road, just before crossing Guaviare river (to get to San José de Guaviare), a reddish dirt road appears in front of us, like a thin, slightly tilted snake taking a sun bath between different shades of green. Following the road, first the shades of greens turn out to be grasslands for cattle or monocultures of palm oil trees. Some of them have been planted only recently. Getting closer to Mapiripán, the holes in the road become more frequent, the journey more uncomfortable. At the same time vast grasslands with endemic savanna-grass, which shimmers gray, appear. In slightly lower parts, the scenery is completed by ribbons of the natural moriche palm trees of the area. They coexist with cristal clear water pools. A few kilometres before entering the city of Mapiripán, a newly paved road reappears out of the nowhere, and even street signs appear. Soon we reach the main square of Mapiripan, which has a new sports complex alongside with some old impressive tree. The banks of the Guaviare river are only a few meters away. It connects the region with the Orinoco river and the rainforest.

    During our trip, we talked with various community leaders and organizations in the region to better understand the context and what a potential accompaniment could look like. We met with the Council of the Mapiripán Association in Defense of the Environment (known as Asodeamapi). We also met with two indigenous communities: the leaders of the Jiw community, who have been displaced and currently live in Mapiripán, and the Sikuani people, who were forcibly displaced and have been living in a settlement on the Guaviare river for over 10 years.

    We also listened to the leaders and spokespeople of the Asentamiento Humano (Human settlement) collective, lead by 302 families who are victims of the armed conflict and demand dignified living conditions in the central settlement of Mapiripán. Finally, we went to the department of Guaviare to visit the Territorial Space of Training and Reincorporation (ETCR), in the rural town of Charras de San José de Guaviare. This space is for the reincorporation of ex-FARC combatants, as part of the Peace Accords. We were guided by CONPAZ leader William Aljure, who along with his family has been advocating for an Act of Recognition for the 11 families whose loved ones were attacked and/or disappeared in acts of violence committed by the public forces, paramilitaries, and the FARC guerilla.

     

    Visiting with members of Asodeamapi, the Mapiripán Association in Defense of the Environment.

    Visiting with members of Asodeamapi, the Mapiripán Association in Defense of the Environment.

    Visiting the settlement of Sikuane indigenous community in Mapiripán, who were displaced here.

    Visiting the settlement of Sikuane indigenous community.

    Traveling on the Guaviare river to the Territorial Space of Training and Reincorporation

     

    Inside the Territorial Space of Training and Reincorporation in Charras de San José de Guaviare: “Victory in Peace” is written on the building on the opposite bank.

    Announcing our Accompaniment of Blanquita-Murrí

    A few weeks ago we traveled to the interethnic territory of Blanquita Murrí, located in the Frontino municipality of the state of Antioquia, to formally receive their petition for accompaniment. Read more background on Blanquita-Murrí here.

    We were invited to a harmonization ceremony lead by the jaibanas, the traditional healers of the Embera Eyábida people. More than 200 people participated including indigenous people, Afro-Colombians and small-scale farmers.

    This ceremony of nonviolence is traditional to the local Embera Eyábida indigenous people and is carried out to help establish unity. It uses traditional medicine to harmonize communities affected by centuries of colonial intervention, decades of armed conflict,  exclusion by the Colombian government, and the violence brought by the interests of the extraction industry.

    During this ritual of restoration and harmonization, FOR Peace Presence received a written petition to accompany the Interethnic Committee for the Construction of Peace, a body of local community members who have designed a Plan for Life that aligns with an interethnic identity and provides concrete steps towards building peace in the territory. Leaders from the Embera Eyábida, Afro-Colombian and mestizo farming communities presented the accompaniment petition.

    The harmonization ritual was carried out in response to a recent increase in attacks and threats against civilians in the area. In August of this year, three civilians, including a 16 year-old indigenous boy, were killed by armed groups during a shootout. As part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation network, an international movement for peace and dialogue, we recognize that traditional rituals such as these are a critical part of the construction of peace, invoking acts of reconciliation, restoration, and profound respect for the diversity of life.

    In the upcoming months, we will continue to carry out both physical and political accompaniments to Blanquita-Murrí to support their day-to-day efforts to build peace across diversity, both human and biodiversity. We are honored to play a part in their important work. Your donation of $10, $25, $50, $100 or more will help make our accompaninment possible.