Creating a Conscience

Notes from the Peace Community: FORista Writes Home After Leaving Urabá

by FORPP Accompanier Gale Stafford

Para español, haz clic aquí

October 20th, 2014

Dear Friends,

I’m back, I swear I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth! (Or even permanently left Colombia!). It’s a busy time, but considering that I found a drafted email to you all from July that I felt was late then, I figure now is about as good a time as any to update you as to how things have been going (since May… almost six months ago…).

So May and June together almost marked the end of my time in the Peace Community. In the end of June, I had an unfortunate pair of incidents of theft of my bag (read: every important document, camera, and notebook, plus a couple other sacred objects – I’m physically fine, just irritated and a little shallower, wallet-wise) plus bug bites serious enough to need to get treated and healed a bit, and so got sucked to the big city of Bogotá for a couple of weeks to get everything in order. From there I had a brief return to the rural Community area, followed by a wonderful visit from my dear friend Heather, another brief stint in the Community, and zipped back to Bogotá. Since then it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, and I just haven’t gotten to scribble down my latest thoughts.

UNTIL NOW!

So because it is absolutely, utterly impossible for me to even summarize everything that has gone on in the last six months (sideways lookinatchu, stolen journal…), I’m going to take the remainder of this email recounting about the end of my time in the Community, and will tell more about things afterwards, and life in Bogotá, starting next time. So below, in no particular order, are notes in homage to and reflection on the nine months of my life in the village of La Unión, part of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. And after re-reading it, I’m realizing it’s a little epic again. Oops. It has been six months, so there’s that… Anyway.
READ MORE >>>

Apuntes de la Comunidad de Paz: FORista escribe a casa después de salir de Urabá

por Gale Stafford, acompañante de FORPP

For English, click here

El 20 de octubre, 2014

Queridxs amigxs,

Ya volví, y ¡les prometo que no me he caído del superficie de la tierra! (¡Ni salido permanentemente de Colombia!) Es un tiempo ocupado, pero considerando que encontré un ensayo a todxs ustedes del julio que me sentía estaba ya atrasado ahí, creo que ya es hora tan buena como cualquier otra a actualizarles de cómo me han pasado las cosas (desde mayo… hace casi seis meses…).

Entonces mayo y junio juntos casi marcaron los finales de mi tiempo en la Comunidad de Paz. A finales de junio, tuve un par de indicentes desafortunados del robo de mi bolso (lean: cada documento importante, cámara, y cuaderno, más unos otros objetos sagrados – estoy bien físicamente, solo irritada y un poco menos profunda, de manera billetera) más unas picaduras tan graves que necesitaban tratamiento y un poco de curación, y entonces me mandaron hasta la gran ciudad de Bogotá por unas semanas para arreglar todo. De ahí tenía una vuelta breve al área rural de la Comunidad, seguida por una visita maravillosa de mi amiga querida Heather, otro tiempito en la Comunidad, y me fui de una de regreso a Bogotá. Desde ahí ha sido un poco torbellino, y solo que no he podido garabatear mis pensamientos más recientes.

¡HASTA AHORA!
READ MORE >>>

Tormentas en La Unión, Comunidad de Paz

Click here for English

De repente, la vida en La Unión, parte de la Comunidad de Paz, puede convertirse en turbulenta. Las cosas han estado muy tranquilo recientemente, entonces la mayoría de los disturbios vienen en la forma de una manada de caballos quienes han organizado sus propias carreras corriendo por la casa, o intentando a ubicar el helicóptero encima pero encontrando solamente un colibrí o dos bien ruidosos. Pero a veces los disturbios cambian en huracanes y son un poco menos maravillosos.

El miércoles pasado y hasta el jueves golpeó una tormenta enorme en La Unión. La lluvia caía en cortinas en los techos de zinc y creaba un enrejado de quebradas miniaturas entre todas las casas. Los vendavales arrancaron por el caserío, sacando cosas y tumbándolas, mientras que los relámpagos golpearon por lo menos dos secadoras. La Unión ya sigue sin luz por más que 13 días.

El mismo miércoles, una tormenta de otra variedad llegó cuando los primeros diecisiete soldados de la Brigada Móvil 24 pasaron por La Unión. Ni unos minutos después, más llegaron a través, y más. En total, sobre 50 pasaron por el caserío.

La Comunidad de Paz se fundó hace más que diecisiete años por principios específicamente removiendo a los miembros de la Comunidad del conflicto. Incluye no provenir ningún apoyo logístico a ningún actor armado ni tenerlos dentro de espacios comunitarios, no tener ni apoyar armas de ningún tipo y decir “no”a la injusticia y la impunidad. En el medio de una de las zonas más calientes, más combativos de Colombia, la Comunidad se unió y declaró que los miembros eran afuera, y respetuosamente pidieron que desde allí, los actores de cualquier grupo armado eviten el área. Se consedó medidas primero cautelares, y entonces provisionales de la Corte Interamericana que las protegen y validan este estándar. La última vez que demoraban unas fuerzas militares en frente de las casas de La Unión fue hace sobre seis años.

Esta vez los soldados pasaron justamente como otro hurracán. Cuando representantes de la Comunidad y acompañantes de FOR, quienes también viven en La Unión, fueron para hablar con unos de ellos, sus líderes hablaron en tonos respetuosos mientras reconocer que aunque habían visto las vallas de la Comunidad antes (que marcan la tierra y listan los principios de la Comunidad), eligieron de todos modos caminar por allí. Dijeron que estaban esperando apoyo de uno de sus soldados, quien estaba enfermo, y que lo habían dejado en el otro lado del caserío. No importa que esta era todavía la tierra que trabaja la Comunidad, y que no eran permitidos estar allí incluso antes de que se enfermaba. Cuando uno de los grupos más pequeños paró para descansar cerca de la malla, pero todavía dentro, y de nuevo les hablaron, unos soldados se disculparon por estar en la Comunidad. Otros se negaron de disculparse y declararon, “¡Este es Colombia!”y “Lo que pasa al enfermo es responsabilidad de ustedes.” Cuando otro soldado empezó a cruzar, después de la mayoría de su tropa había ido, y se acercaron aún más miembros de la Comunidad, postuló, “Bueno, los otros pasaron por aquí, entonces yo, también,” y así hizo.

La Comunidad de Paz significa justo eso – un espacio por la no guerra. Según la teoría de la Comunidad, donde hay un grupo de actores armados, incluso militares, seguro que siguen los otros grupos armados. Para evitar el conflicto, la Comunidad ha escogido evitar los actores armados totalmente, y en vez de eso convivir y trabajar juntos, para crear la paz que ven por este mundo. Y después de diecisiete años de declararse así y vivir sus principios, todavía hay violaciones de sus esperanzas y sus derechos.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT: ACCOMPANIMENT VISIT FOR THE CASE OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR JEFFERSON SHAYANNE ACOSTA ORTIZ

Para español, haz clic aquí

Once again it is confirmed that there are no guarantees to exercise the right to object in the army.

Last Friday, July 11, at 2:30pm, two members of Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors (Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Consciencia, or ACOOC) and two international observers from FOR Peace Presence met with Colonel Zambrano, Lieutenant Alarcón, and Major Medina, all members of the Reveíz Pizarro Battalion located in Saravena, Arauca.

The objectives of the meeting were: 1) To verify the status and conditions in which Jefferson Shayanne is exercising his fundamental right to conscientious objection; 2) To notify those in charge of the battalion of the accompaniment that he is being provided; 3) To inform those in charge of the battalion of the national and international recommendations for the exercising of this right that they should be respecting; 4) For Jefferson to be able to turn in the military equipment that was assigned to him, given that in his position as a conscientious objector he cannot be forced to wear a uniform or carry a gun.

With regard to these objectives, we conclude the following from our visit:

The conditions under which Jefferson Shayanne is exercising his right are clearly adverse to his position as an objector, and do not establish any guarantee of his right. Firstly, since Jefferson expressed his status as an objector and made his declaration public, his right has been suppressed and he has been questioned constantly about his reasons. Even in our presence, Col. Zambrano askedJefferson what he would do if the “enemy” were suddenly to attack the battalion. “I would hide” was Jefferson´s response, a statement that baffled the soldiers present. We reminded them that based on that statement, Jefferson is a conscientious objector, not a soldier, being held against his will at a military facility.

Based on this suppression of his rights, we also confirmed that Jefferson has and continues to be treated as a soldier, despite his constant dialogue and communications to make clear his refusal to be in the battalion because he is a conscientious objector. In the words of Colonel Zambrano, “Jefferson was a soldier from the moment they recorded him in the registry as such, and he cannot be treated any other way.”

After verifying the adverse conditions impeding the guarantee of Jefferson’s right, the military officials present were notified of our accompaniment and of the national and international recommendations that exist for the protection of this right. Nevertheless, Colonel Zambrano made it clear that they will only respect these recommendations when they receive an order certifying that Jefferson is a conscientious objector and therefore must be discharged.

One of the most important international recommendations is that a conscientious objector cannot be forced to carry or handle weapons or military equipment. In Jefferson’s case, this has not been respected. When Jefferson has tried to turn in his weapon, the response he gets is that they cannot take it, and should he leave it with them, the weapon could be lost and he would then have to assume the serious implications that would follow. For this reason, we proposed that he be able to turn in his gun and uniform, and that one member of ACOOC and one member of FOR PP would sign as witnesses.  Colonel Zambrano and the other military officials present refused to accept that option, arguing that “until receiving certification that Jefferson is a conscientious objector, he will continue being treated as a soldier, and therefore must keep his weapon, equipment, and uniform.”

In the end, the position of the military personnel present in the meeting was to not treat Jefferson as an objector until receiving an official document that certifies him as such. In their judgment, the reasons given by Jefferson do not immediately make him an objector. According to them, the religious and humanitarian beliefs that he holds are also held by other members of the battalion, and furthermore, in the words of Lieutenant William Ovaldo Romo to Jefferson: “Someone can kill a person, then go to church, pray, and ask for forgiveness, and nothing happens… religion is not an excuse not to perform military service.”

As ACOOC, from this statement on, we want to be clear about our concern for the conditions under which Jefferson is exercising his fundamental right to object. We consider that the pressure that Jefferson constantly receives (demonstrated by acts such as waking him up one day at 3 AM, forcing him to put on his uniform, and sitting him alone in a room to explain to him why he should give up his convictions based on all the advantages that being a soldier has) does not allow him to fully exercise his right.

We also consider that their communication with us, in which they declared that only when there is an “official certification” will they give Jefferson the treatment of a conscientious objector, omits all of the international recommendations. The absence of a certification or similar document is not an excuse to violate a fundamental right. None of the other recognized forms of conscientious objection in the constitution depend on a document to be respected. It is evident that there is a lack of recognition by the military, and consequently a total absence of guarantees to exercise this right within military facilities.

We urge human rights organizations, through means of communication, networks, and organized social platforms, to show their support for this young man who decided to refuse to be part of a cycle of violence in one of the most questionable battalions in the country.

 

Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors

FOR Peace Presence

Creating a Conscience

By Ethan Vesely-Flad

The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience. (Mahatma Gandhi, 1922)

As a first-time father, I am newly attuned to the issues of social, spiritual, and ethical formation that consume the minds of parents across the world. And as our child grows day-by-day, my spouse and I listen attentively to the stories of friends whose children are older, and may already be in school or other social settings. We have begun to wrestle with the questions of how our son will find his moral foundation, and what will shape his life choices. How is a conscience developed?


READ MORE >>>