Open Letter to Colombian President Santos

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Please help end the threats against the peace community of San José de Apartadó

foto-de-juan-manuel-santos-twitter-oficial-juanmansantosDear Mr. President Juan Manuel Santos,

My name is Sabine Lichtenfels and I am the co-founder of Tamera Peace Research Center in Portugal. I have regularly traveled to Colombia for many years now where I have accompanied and supported the Peace Community San José de Apartadó with other peace workers from around the world. With our friends in San José we established the “Global Campus,” an international education platform to assist refugees and farmers in different crisis areas in building ecological community models.

First of all, I would like to extend my gratitude for your commitment to peace. It has been an important course of action for us to trust you and your political engagement as we so often bore witness to how the Colombian state has been involved in many crimes against the civil population from up close. We are impressed by and thankful for the courageous steps towards peace and reconciliation that you have taken, knowing what kind of pressure you face by doing so. When I last visited Colombia two years ago and the results of the negotiations in Havana were still uncertain, I predicted that you would one day be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. My sincere congratulations for this great honor.

Today I am writing to you with an important request.

San José de Apartadó and other peace communities – groups that have walked the path of nonviolence since the very beginning, while suffering the most severe attacks and massacres – still find themselves highly threatened despite the peace process. Though San José de Apartadó was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, both attacks and slander campaigns continued in full gear. Throughout the last weeks, the community found itself particularly endangered. Paramilitary occupied two hamlets and threatened them to abandon their educational center Mulatos. Members of the military told our friends that they are well aware of the paramilitary presence on the community’s property, but that they are not going to do anything to protect them against their violence.

We thank you very much for your public apology in December 2013 for the wrong accusations your predecessor made against the Peace Community. Yet, furthermore, we ask you: Please help end the threats from the army and the paramilitaries against San José. The Constitutional Court already called your government in 2012 to define “a procedure to avoid future accusations against the [Peace Community San José], such as the establishment of a single communication channel that reduces risks and helps rebuilding trust.”

Please support the Peace Community San José to gain a good reputation in Colombia, which it has long had internationally. This community is known around the world as a pioneer for solving the Colombian conflict peacefully and as a master in staying faithful to the path of peace and reconciliation in spite of immense pain. The right for all peace communities to live on their lands must be acknowledged and respected.

San José could assume a key role for the next stage of the peace process in Colombia. Together with other projects of the “University of Resistance,” indigenous communities and women’s groups, this extraordinary village could teach the ways of nonviolence and forgiveness to previous fighters and show them how to coexist in solidarity. All over the country, peace communities could arise that would heal the wounds of the war and take an active role in ecologically restoring the country. This is how Colombia could turn into a global role model for transforming a war culture into a peace culture.

We would be happy to contribute to the success of this great transformation with our social, technological and ecological knowledge.

We thank you for your attention.
With warmest regards, on behalf of the Tamera community and the Global Campus,

Sabine Lichtenfels

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