In 1997, more than 1000 farmers and refugees declared themselves as neutral in the conflict between the Guerilla army and the Paramilitary. They formed the Peace Community, giving themselves guidelines of non-violence and trying to protect each other from being expelled from their remote parishes and farms. In the following years, more than 200 of them were killed brutally in the merciless fights for land, strategic advantage and resources in that region. But still they stayed together and endured.
In 2015, for the first time, a council member, Gildardo Tuberquia, came to a GEN conference and shared with us.
While he was in Europe, the challenges and threats against the Peace Community continued. These threats have reached another level: now they are not so much direct violence and massacres, but more economic pressures; the pressure of false information; and a strategy of isolating the Peace Community from the local neighborhood.
Every day at the conference, we received information of ongoing threats, such as a central and important piece of land was threatened by a claim from neighboring stakeholders linked with the armed powers responsible of much of the war atrocities in the region.
Mulatos is a developing model village and ecological center, which is an historically important site of the growing peace village. Here the neighbors want to create a performance space which is open to armed actors. As friends, we decided to write a letter to that group, confirming our support of the vision of the peace community and offering them a perspective as to how they can become a part of that vision.
Two days later another challenge emerged: two army tanks were threatening the main village, San Josecito, triggered by a student march in the nearest village protesting against the local military base. We immediately activated our network and reached out to the Colombian government and army to stop this threat against civilians and well-regarded peace workers.
With these unexpected situations to deal with, Gildardo – with his responsible position in the Council – was called back home by his companions.
Still the first presence of the Peace Community at a GEN conference was very precious. Together wit other Colombian participants – Margerita Zethelius and Beatriz Arjona – he formulated a memorandum for Human Rights in Colombia. It might have been the start of a strong alliance that will, hopefully, better protect Peace Communities in future.