Photo credit: Colectivo Sur Cacarica
The peace process in Colombia brought both hope and fresh challenges. A year and a half since the Peace Accords were signed, former FARC combatants have laid down their arms and left territories they once dominated. Meanwhile, other illegal armed groups have seized control of these territories, eager to fill the vacuum left behind by the FARC.
The small-scale farming families that live in San Pedro de Ingará, a village in the remote hills of southern Chocó Department, are no strangers to the violence of illegally armed groups. In the mid 2000’s, control of the region was highly contested between FARC guerrillas and AUC paramilitaries. The AUC first announced their presence in the area by carrying out a terrifying attack on community members the day of a wedding; slowly, one by one, armed AUC soldiers tied up three different young men from the village and dragged them away. Their dismembered bodies were discovered the next day.
But violence has continued even after the Peace Agreement was signed. Within the past year, people in the San Pedro de Ingará area have experienced aggressions from both ELN guerrilla factions and AGC neo-paramilitaries. In 2017 alone, authorities have counted 26 violent actions in the area, including bombings in the neighboring village of La Italia. Last month, AGC militants killed two civilians operating public transport in the city center of San José de Palmar, about 50 minutes from San Pedro de Ingará.
Tired of the violence, 70 families in the region have come together to create a peaceful solution. On November 13th, they established the village of San Pedro de Ingará as an “Interethnic, Humanitarian, and Environmental Territory”.
FORPP accompaniers were present at the event to accompany representatives of CONPAZ (Communities Constructing Peace in the Territories), an organization dedicated to sustaining nonviolence in local communities in the context of the conflict. The village of San Pedro de Ingará is the 154th community to join CONPAZ’s countrywide network.
Members of this new humanitarian space have pledged to nonviolently oppose the presence of armed groups on their territory. Most are farmers, but do not have formal titles to the lands where they grow their crops. They are hoping to be granted official ownership by means of the land redistribution process outlined in the Peace Agreement.
On a large boulder outside of San Pedro de Ingará are the words “No hay camino para la paz. La paz es el camino” (“There is no way to peace. Peace is the way”).
The message could not be truer. As the 25th of December approaches, and the Christmas story is heard again, FORPP is honored to bear witness to the birth of a community attempting to construct its own peace.