Colombia Project

About CPT Colombia

We accompany community processes and grassroots organizations who embody nonviolent resistance as a tool of defense against the violent framework that dominates politics, economics, and culture.

The Colombian people continue to suffer a widespread threat of violence from legal and illegal armed actors after more than 60 years of internal conflict and civil war. Since the mid-50s, social movements that challenge the power structures have been specifically targeted and suppressed by the government.

Our team travels regularly to be present with small farming and mining communities in the rural areas of the Magdalena Medio region, caught in the crossfires of decades of war and more recently, hyper-development. In the city of Barrancabermeja, we also partner with local human rights organizations in their efforts to highlight the effects of a conflict that has permeated the urban social structures through organized crime, micro-trafficking and displacement from rural areas.

Our call to peacemaking means living, working, and worshiping in community, drawing from a variety of spiritual traditions that ground us in a common goal for peace.

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COLOMBIA: In spite of trauma, a smile


[Note: The following has been adapted for CPTnet.  The original is available on CPT Colombia’s website.]

As we arrived at the meeting with the people of Bella Union, a village neighboring El Guayabo, I saw a woman sitting under a green tree with a big smile.  I immediately thought it would be interesting to know more about her.

Our task was very specific: to document cases of human rights violations from 1990 to 2014.  Soon it was time for the woman with the beautiful smile to share.  She was a bit tired because she had given her statement many times without seeing results, so I paid close attention to what she was saying.

As she told me step by step what she had suffered at the hands of violent actors, her smile grew more radiant.  She did not seem weighed down by sadness, despite the fact that over ten years ago, violence in the region put out a light in their lives.  She continued recounting the events that ended the lives of her family: first the story of her father’s death, then her brother’s, and then she took a break, saying that the story of her son was the most painful. 

COLOMBIA VIDEO: “The chocolate process”--a cup of hot chocolate truly made from scratch

CPT Colombia has a new video out showing how the community of Garzal makes a cup of hot chocolate—from the time the cacao fruit is picked, to the preparation and husking of cocoa beans, to the cup of sweet deliciousness. 

Watch here 

Cup of Chocolate // Una Taza de Chocolate from CPT/ECAP Colombia on Vimeo.

The communities of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza have engaged in what is called a “social process” to resist displacement and stand up for their rights and their dignity for more than a decade.  They are among the primary communities that CPT Colombia accompanies.

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo calls for justice and transparency in Puerto Wilches

In his 1984 address at Mennonite World Conference that served as the catalyst for the formation of Christian Peacemaker Teams, Ron Sider described shalom as “being in right relationship with God, neighbor and the earth.”  Shalom, he says, “means not only the absence of war, but also…the fair division of land so that all families can earn their own way.  It…means the Jubilee and sabbatical release of debts so that great extremes of wealth and poverty do not develop among God’s people.”

 When I walk through the community of El Guayabo on a peaceful day, shalom is what I see.  People live together, worship together, farm together, and welcome strangers into their homes.  There is food for everyone, even a surplus to feed the neighboring towns.  The recent illegal eviction attempt that violently disrupted peace in this community was not only unethical, but also tainted a lifestyle that is holy, a lifestyle that I believe is pleasing to God.

 On 11 August 2014, the communities of El Guayabo and Bella Union gathered to pray publicly and call for political transparency in the town of Puerto Wilches.  They used songs, Bible verses, speeches, and a dramatic action to bring attention to the recent illegal eviction attempt made by riot police.  During the planning stage, El Guayabo leader Eric told the Christian Peacemaker Team delegation that the goal of the action was to spread awareness about the eviction attempt (the origins of which developed under suspicious circumstances) in Puerto Wilches, the largest town in their municipality. 

 

Edinson Garcia speaks during the laying down of the recent harvest

 

When they arrived at the Mayor’s office, the farmers knelt, each placing a different crop from the most recent harvest on the pavement outside the entrance.  CPTers moved forward with palm branches and symbolically covered the crops, as a delegate listed aloud the harmful consequences that a lack of transparency about the eviction process would have for the community.  The delegation then publicly stated their support for the community as the Mayor looked on.  At the conclusion of the action, a delegation leader gave a petition to the Mayor signed by 180 international partners.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: My hero


The first time I met my hero she was one of a dozen dusty, carefree children congregated like a school of fish on the edge of town as they dreamed up their next adventure.  Buenos Aires looked like of the best places on earth to be a kid: a small, quiet riverside town with a whole jungle out back to explore, where they were free to be queens and kings of their own destiny. 

It was a warning to me that singled her out from this mob of Indiana Joneses: “That one over there—the angelic, sweet, little girl with the springy curls and big smile?  She’s a handful.  Give her a foot and she’ll take a mile.” 

Jimena sure is a handful—a handful of spunk, spirit, and joy.  She’s nine years old and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up to help people with heart problems.  Her toothy grin and the way she snuggles up under my arm and into my heart leaves me no doubt that she’ll save many lives.   

COLOMBIA: Las Pavas files a public complaint against aggressions of palm oil company and government inaction

On 4 August 2014, the community of Las Pavas filed a public complaint against the constant aggressions committed by the palm company Aportes San Isidro and the lack of government response regarding the actions of this company.  The community, to whom the government allocated the Las Pavas farm 2012 and whom the government recognized in 2013 as displaced by paramilitaries in 2003, continue to be affected by the palm company’s disregard for the legal system.  Aportes San Isidro has committed various attacks against the community, which generate terror, despair, and social breakdown in the community.  The community of Las Pavas also denounces the lack of guarantees from the State, to whom they have reported many times their vulnerable situation and the violence enacted against their members.

Read (in Spanish) Las Pavas’ denunciation of Aportes San Isidro’s violent harassment and the government’s inaction here.

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Colombia Delegation: Conflict, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Sat, 09/10/2016 Sat, 09/24/2016

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