FOR Peace Presence Monthly Update – September 2014

A letter from John Lindsay-Poland

If you live in the United States, you know that our country is in an emergency, as we respond to the racist fear-mongering of a new presidency. You may be less aware of the continuing emergencies in other nations such as Colombia. But human rights workers there urgently need your support now, too.

On January 29, 2002, the same week that two young volunteers travelled to remote San José de Apartadó to permanently accompany a Peace Community under attack, the then-U.S. president committed himself to eliminating an “axis of evil.” The United States had just begun its war in Afghanistan and passed the Patriot Act under the guise of fighting terrorism. But it was also supporting a war in Colombia. When I and others visited San José the year before, the community’s leaders asked us to accompany them in the aftermath of a massacre that had killed six community leaders in the hamlet of La Unión. We didn’t know – couldn’t know – what it would entail, but we had to say yes.

Since then, the FOR Peace Presence has expanded its accompaniment in Colombia to conscientious objectors, Afro-Colombians resisting neo-paramilitary violence, farmers neighboring the military’s largest training base, and community councils and indigenous reserves in more than a dozen Colombian departments. It has also continued its 24/7 presence in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó.


Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó: Reunidxs en la Resistencia No Violenta

For English, click here

El equipo en San José de Apartadó acompañó a la Comunidad de Paz recientemente a su asamblea en la vereda de Mulatos. Estas asambleas son una oportunidad para que los miembros que viven a grandes distancias unos de otros se puedan reunir, planear y discutir los asuntos y problemas que enfrenta la comunidad. Una preocupación permanente de la Comunidad de Paz (CdP) es la presencia en la zona de actores armados legales e ilegales. Año tras año, los miembros de la CdP han sentido los efectos de estos grupos violentos, viviendo en medio de un conflicto que no ha respetado las vidas ni la propiedad de la población civil.

Community members from different settlements gather to meet over the days of the Assembly

Los miembros de varias veredas de la Comunidad se reúnen durante la asamblea

Justo cuando llegaron los miembros de la CdP y los acompañantes a Mulatos, mientras colgaban las banderas de las organizaciones internacionales en la brisa, bombas y disparos sonaron a lo lejos. Hacía poco que aviones y helicópteros militares nos estaban sobrevolando, daban vueltas entre Mulatos y donde había ocurrido el ataque. La gente estimó la locación rápidamente por el sonido y la fuerza de las armas de fuego, que es una habilidad que casi han perfeccionado a lo largo de los años. Después empezó el juego de adivinanzas…¿A quiénes estaban atacando los militares?

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.


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.

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.


FOR Peace Presence Monthly Update – September 2014


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 physOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAically 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.