Photo: Sabine Lichtenfels (r) in conversation with Donna Brigida of the Peace Community San José de Apartadó in Colombia
Tamera’s co-founder Sabine Lichtenfels will travel to Colombia in March 2017 together with Martin Winiecki (coordinator of Tamera’s Institute for Global Peace Work), Andrea Regelmann (coordinator of our Colombia network) and Laura von Raffay to visit the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. At the moment, this community urgently needs our support and we want to use this journey to help them find sustainable political protection and a powerful new perspective.
Alnoor Ladha, a friend of Tamera and executive director of The Rules – an international NGO that works with social movements in the Global South and for a post-capitalist future – will accompany us.
We’ll travel to Colombia on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of San José de Apartadó’s founding, which the community will celebrate with many guests from within Colombia and around the world on March 23rd. In 1997, about 1,350 displaced farmers came together in the Urabá region in the north of the country to declare themselves neutral in the war. As Peace Community, they committed to a path of nonviolence, community and common work, to building an island of humaneness in a sea of massacres. Their fundamental principles include a rigorous rejection of drugs, alcohol, arms and no cooperation with any of the armed groups. Due to their courageous stance, they became victims of merciless persecution. More than 200 of their members, including many of their leaders, have been killed, mainly at the hands of paramilitary and army forces, but also at the hands of guerrilla forces. In spite of all that they have suffered, they decided for peace and reconciliation – principals they steadfastly maintain today.
As you might know, we have already been accompanying the Peace Community for more than 10 years. We’ve initiated Grace Pilgrimages, solidarity campaigns and technology transfers. And we collaborate with them in the framework of the Global Campus, a worldwide education initiative for building self-sufficient models for the future. We share a profound friendship with San José. Even though both communities, Tamera and San José, could not be more different in many regards, we do work for the same goal of a future without war, for a new Earth in which all beings can live in dignity, justice and trust.
Despite many important tasks here in Tamera, we decided to go there at the last minute, as the situation in Colombia generally and in the Peace Community specifically has dramatically worsened throughout the last weeks.
Two years ago, when Sabine Lichtenfels was last in Colombia, she had the vision to get President Santos to take a public stand for San José and other peace communities in the country and thereby make sure these projects will be protected from violence. In these last weeks, following this vision has turned into an imperative that we could no longer ignore.
Though we celebrated the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-Ep guerrillas as an historic breakthrough, we are currently witnessing how paramilitary death squads, multinational corporations and corrupt politicians use the so called “peace” as a cover to perpetuate the war against defenseless civilians and those resisting their plans. Now, as the world believes peace has arrived in Colombia, and global attention shifts to other crisis areas, paramilitary forces quietly take over many of the areas formerly held by the FARC, kill activists and threaten peace communities without public awareness. In the last couple of months, the number of political assassinations has skyrocketed and our friends in San José have been constantly subjected to paramilitary invasion and death threats.
Colombia finds itself at a crossroads: Will a true process of peace-building and reconciliation begin? or will “peace” just be another word for hidden war? As we see it, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó could assume a key role for the future of the country. With everything they’ve suffered and experienced, with their profound knowledge about forgiveness, nonviolence and solidarity, they could become teachers for peace education for disarmed fighters. Similar self-sufficient peace communities could arise in the demilitarized zones throughout the country. Former warriors would no longer serve the war, but the ecological and social restoration of the country. Colombia could become an example for genuine peace, which other countries could learn from. We want to help make this happen and contribute our ecological, technological and especially social knowledge.
In addition to visiting San José and discussing next steps of cooperation with them, we will meet representatives of the government, the church, indigenous people, human rights organizations, international observers and diplomats to convey this vision and offer our support. And if it works out, we will also sit down with President Santos himself.
Last year, we initiated a call of solidarity and support for the Colombian peace communities, which the American intellectual Noam Chomsky, Brazil’s former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, the Bolivian water activist Oscar Olivera and many others joined and that was discussed during the Havana peace talks. With this journey, we want to take the next step to protect San José and all peace groups in Colombia.
May it succeed. For a future without war!