In one corner of Colombia there are communities that believe in life, and that resist violence in an organized way. We call on the solidarity of other people to get to know our country, which is a beautiful country with people who dream.”
“No, no, don’t leave yet! I have to denounce!”
The Cahucopana leader’s fingers flew with purpose over her cellphone’s keyboard as we sat in the jeep waiting to depart from Remedios. Her team had received word of an assassination committed by three armed men in Lejanías, a town in the municipality of Remedios, and were urgently attempting to publicly declare the injustice of this violence through social media before we lost all cell signal three minutes into our journey. In Colombia the public denouncing of an injustice, by formal or informal means, is the first step toward initiating a formal legal process to seek redress.
Sometimes, the work of Cahucopana takes place on the move. CPT has been accompanying Cahucopana since 2008 because an international presence can increase the space of security for its leadership. On this occasion, my teammate and I were accompanying Cahucopana’s leaders to one of their biannual meetings.
Corporación Acción Humanitaria por la Convivencia y la Paz del Nordeste Antioqueño (The Corporation of Humanitarian Action for Coexistence and Peace in Northeast Antioquia, or Cahucopana) is an organization for miners and campesinxs* with a mission to resolve the human rights crisis overwhelming the region of Northeastern Antioquia.
Back on the road, the public declaration was successfully posted during a stop at a gas station. Our destination was one of Cahucopana’s Transitional Humanitarian Safe Havens. Cahucopana has established these Safe Havens to nonviolently resist the displacement of Antioquia’s communities into cities. Families are generally displaced from their land in this region due to the violence and intimidation of military, guerrillas, or paramilitaries. Fearing for their lives, families flee to the perceived safety of the cities, and are rarely able to return.
Cahucopana is resisting this pattern of displacement. Recognizing the right each human has to their life, their dignity, and their land, Cahucopana created locations alongside the communities where families could seek safety much closer to home. “The beautiful thing about these homes of refuge, and why we consider them homes of transition, is that we believe that the people who find refuge there have the right to return to their territory, to their home, to their culture and not be displaced to the cities,” says Carlos Morales, Cahucopana’s President.
During their temporary stay in these Havens, displaced women, men, and youth take workshops on international humanitarian law, human rights law, and the protection and permanency of their land. They may even participate in humanitarian actions by publicly denouncing the violence against them and sharing their experiences with national and international accompaniment agencies. In this way, education and storytelling empower the displaced individuals and communities to return to their homes without fear of encountering the armed actors in the region. It is the intention of Cahucopana that every temporarily displaced person return home with the tools they need to defend their rights and to be a better member of their community.