Film clip of Eduar Lancheros: “Hope is when we no longer hate the murderer.”
Eduar, human rights defender, philosopher and key figure in the inspiring initiative of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, has passed into history, into the collective memory of those men and women who contributed to creating dignity for the people.
From a young age Eduar was involved in fighting for human rights as a Salesian seminarian in the 1990s. He could be found in the corridors of the Justice and Peace Commission, deliberating on the news, the denouncements, the names and the contexts of the thousands of victims being registered.
He would listen to the victims of State persecution and of socio-political violence who would arrive. Bit by bit, breaking his own silence which was an almost daily discipline, the space for systemization was shrinking, and during his own edification throughout his meetings with victims who affirmed their rights, profound passions for noble causes in popular pedagogy were consolidating in his soul, and a deep conviction that values like justice and fraternity would become part of the people’s history.
He delved into the works of Freire, Freinet, Marx, into the writing of Kaspers, philosophers of communicative action among liberals and the left. Through those ideals of justice, he found himself among a young groupthe Justice and Peace Commission, those who proposed educating people about human rights, known as ‘deache’ [spoken acronym for ‘human rights’ in Spanish].
From then on, Eduar was at the same time a field researcher and an instructor, teaching and raising awareness of human rights. He listened to the victims and proposed that they search for justice. Thus five years passed, impassioned and caught up in studies, discussions, proposals and a consolidation of human rights in diverse regions of Colombia.
Time passed and the “deache” generation found themselves faced with a huge frustration: the gulf which separated theoretical discussions, popular teaching methods and the practices of people who faced State terror or lived in areas blighted by armed conflict. Nobody among that group of youths imagined that northern Chocó, Urabá and the Bajo Atrato region would go on to change the course of their lives.
In 1996, Eduar, along with others treading the same path, found himself in the epicenter of the most brutal paramilitary violence of the 4th, 11th and 17th Brigades of the Colombian Army, and amidst the most serious human rights violations. They found themselves discovering extreme damage, destruction and devastation, and among it all, hope, laughter, singing, and solidarity between those people who refused to let the perpetrators and architects of violence define the destiny and the lives of thousands of people. That popular pedagogy was the education of resistance, the education of affirmation.
In 1997, after traveling through different regions of northwestern Colombia, Eduar happened to be in northern Chocó Department just after Easter in March, and it was necessary for somebody to go to San José de Apartadó for a few days and for others to travel to Bogotá, while we defined how and who could stay there.
Eduar left northern Chocó, where he witnessed paramilitary operations and murders. When asked if he wanted to go to Bogotá or stay in San José for a few days, while we made the decision about how to accompany, he preferred to stay in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. Since that day in March of 1997, as a member of the Justice and Peace Commission, he never left the Peace Community, and indeed he never will.
In time came the creation of a methodology, as well as strategies for how the civilian population could avoid displacement, confront the causes of violence, and affirm their rights. Discussions took place in the midst of threats towards leaders, murders of defenseless civilians who believed in the construction of peace and forced disappearances. Amongst all this the principle of autonomy was growing with a profound creativity, different from the popular classes’ approaches and the traditional mobilizations. It was a time of a lack of understanding of what the Peace Community’s proposal was for those who witnessed murders with such high human and ethical costs.
With Eduar is the memory of identification, of those who are not just artificial accompaniers, but those which move to the side, who become part of an existential, historical wager to dignify and to liberate. His equanimity and his integrity became clear when he decided to become a member of the Peace Community of San José during a difficult time for him and all of us in the Justice and Peace Commission.
Because of his identification with and consistent commitment to these causes, he was no stranger to death threats. Sometimes they came from the commander himself of the 17th Brigade, General Carreño Sandoval [commander in 1998-99, now deceased], and other times from the 17th Brigade’s assistants, the paramilitaries. This came on top of the judicial and defamatory persecution to which he was subjected for the last ten years, since ex-president Uribe accused the Peace Community of harboring and supporting terrorists and denied the 17th Brigade’s responsibility in the massacre in which one of Eduar’s closest friends was killed, Luis Eduardo Guerra. The latter case involved a historical and judicial lie which has since been disproved.
In this time of lived historical memory, Eduar, whose laughter was spontaneous but short, spoke of his mother. She was always present, she never stopped being present. He spoke of her as a treasure, as something delicate to be protected, as a bastion, as devotion at any cost, as his worry. She was his strength. And in the distance, in spite of his commitment to the cause, with unmentioned affection, guarded appreciation, we know of his love for Ella, his daughters with Ella.
We can only be happy since in intimate, inscrutable spaces, those spaces that reveal what is profoundly human, he was always this other, the unsaid, the unknown, the eternal beloved.
Today Eduar has passed into history. It pains us, but there are others who are pleased, those who, from the bastions of force in the Seventeeth Brigade, continue to persecute and lie about the Peace Community.
It pains us… it pains us greatly. But he is there in San Josecito, he is travelling through the villages leaving the fragrance of justice, he can be found in the solidarity which is alive in spite of so much ignominy and death. Not only do the criminals know of him, but so do good men and women, in the midst of the social and territorial control that the military and paramilitaries try to impose to kill one’s soul.
Today Eduar has passed into history, he is part of our memory, memory removed from circles of power and prestige that it is possible to fall into in the name of noble causes.
Bogotá, D.C. 27 June 2012
Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz
Translated by Charlotte Melly