This month we worked as a team of three in Bogotá with Gale, Michaela, and Kaya, while Isabel and Nikki continue FOR Peace Presence’s permanent accompaniment, living in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó.
In September, the Bogotá team physically accompanied for 17 days in Cundinamarca, Atlántico, Cesar, Santa Marta, and Valle de Cauca, La Guajira and Sucre – a new record! Additionally, we organized a 4 joint meetings with Embassies and our accompanied partners and a meeting with the Human Rights Unit of the Colombian Ministry of Defense. We released 5 written pieces on our Peace Presence webpage – check out our News section of our website to stay up-to-date.
As military presence surrounding the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was a constant in September, our team has not only been present in the hamlet of La Unión, but also responded to the community’s movements. Nikki and Isa made the long, 5-hour, muddy trek to accompany a community leader to and in the Peace Community hamlet of Mulatos, where the 2005 massacre took place.
At the beginning of September we responded to the petition of communities in Nilo, Cundinamarca to stand witness to the continued destruction of their habitat, now on behalf of extractive activities, as dredgers from a sand extraction company devastate the local Sumapaz River. Communities first settled in this area around 1920 and in 1954 the military training base of Tolemaida was installed in close proximity and all land was given to the military.
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There’s no better way to improve your understanding of active non-violence in Colombia, to demonstrate international solidarity, or to get to the heart of the global issues that are effecting the organizations and communities we work with, than by coming over and visiting!
We’re very pleased indeed to announce the International Fellowship of Reconciliation Delegation to Colombia, happening in March 2014. This is an unequaled opportunity to meet human rights activists, to build bridges and partnerships in Colombia, and to see first hand the impacts of structural violence and armed conflict in Colombia, all guided and translated (into English and German) by members of our Peace Presence team.
If you would like to join the delegation, please see this page for more information, fill out this form to apply, and send it to these email addresses: irmgardehrenberger[at]versoehnungsbund.at (for Europe) or spimiento[at]forusa.org (for America). Please send this page to anyone and everyone you think may be interesting in this truly amazing experience.
Looking forward to seeing you in 2014,
The Peace Presence Team
By Doug Hostetter
Forty years ago, as a conscientious objector, I worked for the Mennonite Central Committee in Tam Ky, Vietnam, organizing literacy classes for Vietnamese children whose schools had been destroyed by theU.S. Air Force. As a Mennonite, I had a strong personal commitment to biblical nonviolence, but also a naïve belief in the honorable intentions of my government’s military efforts in Indochina.
My Mennonite faith did not permit me to participate in the U.S. war in Vietnam, but as a U.S. citizen, I felt I could understand why my government stated that we needed to defend our nation against the rising tide of atheistic, godless communism. Communism had started in Russia, spread to China, and was now sweeping through Vietnam. It was like falling dominos, we were told: the first domino strikes the second, which falls against the third, and so on, until the entire world becomes communist.