Hello, and welcome to the brand new Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence blog and news.
We are blessed here at FORPP – we have a shiny new organization, with all the dynamism and drive that implies, yet we also benefit from over 10 years’ experience working here in Colombia, promoting justice and active nonviolence as part of FOR USA.
We are, first and foremost, an accompaniment organization. What this means in practice is that we are “there” with Colombian activists when they need support – whether that means having someone there to act as an eye witness, or as an embodiment of international opinion standing there in a bright blue shirt, we improve the personal security of people whose lives are threatened by powerful people who want them silenced. We make sure we are in a position to be “there” when we are needed.
In addition, we provide political support – going from talking to local police chiefs, to regional and national politicians, to talking to embassies in Bogotá and US Congressmen. We pressure the powers-that-be to recognize those we support and their struggle, we raise the political cost of violence, and we make sure those in power have no doubt that people are watching what happens and care.
Finally, we provide international solidarity. We embody that solidarity by being “there” side by side with the human rights lawyers, campaigners, activists and communities we accompany. We also spread the word, using our international network of supporters and fellow NGOs. (And of course, through this website, this blog, and our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed).
Edmund Burke said “that the only thing that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to stay silent”. What we aim to do here at FORPP is not to be those good men – but to be a megaphone for those good men. Like a megaphone, wielded at a protest march, we amplify the voices of Colombian activists. We help give people in power a headache.
We don’t presume to give advice to Colombians about how to fight a Colombian fight in a Colombian context. We claim no ownership. Their struggle is theirs and theirs alone. But we stand by them, and when they ask for our support – because they are in physical danger, because they need some representation of international opinion with them – we are “there”, and that is all we do.
But what sounds disarmingly simple has a powerful effect. Combining physical presence, political dissuasion, and international solidarity saves lives here in Colombia. Part of FORPP’s work is a permanent (peace) presence in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó – we live there, and have done for 11 years, in the community, accompanying daily leaders who have had their lives personally threatened countless times, in the middle of a three sided war between guerrillas, paramilitaries and the Army. We have been there to talk to illegal armed groups and the army, when the community was threatened from all sides. We’ve been there for the births of new community members, we’ve been there at funerals, and after the 2005 massacre we were there to accompany the search for bodies.
We also accompany Tierra Digna at the Center of Studies for Social Justice, lawyers who fight for the rights of communities forced from their homes by environmental damaged caused by irresponsible mining companies. We accompany the Campesino Association of Antioquia (ACA) which helps farmers displaced by violence build new lives. We accompany the Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors (ACOOC), to stop the forcible conscription of young Colombian men into a bloody conflict they want no part of. We accompany lawyers, and documentary makers, and organize international delegations to get the word of all this crucial work out there.
We accompany at points of crisis and in everyday life, the valiant and necessary work Colombian organizations are doing, and create extra space (figuratively and literally) for them to do it in. And we rely on our international supporters and the goodwill of the Colombian people to do it. We are a team of young human rights defenders, and currently we have team members from the United States, Austria and England. Only by drawing on support from our home countries and all around the world can we continue to be “there” when needed, so please, donate if you can. And if you would like to take the next step and dedicate your time to this work and join the team, please follow the relevant links and we would be delighted to stand alongside you and be counted. We do great work to help extraordinary people, and are looking forward to telling you all about it on this blog. So again; welcome to the new blog, we hope you like what you see.