"We thank FOR for being here with us, offering your support to a community that day after day says no to impunity and to war. We are happy about your presence here - it makes us flourish."
Representatives of Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
San José de Apartadó, in the Urabá region of northern Colombia, is one of more than 50 Peace Communities that have declared themselves neutral in the war, committing to non-violently demand their right to justice and peace. They have taken an extraordinary stand against violence at the very center of a war zone, refusing to support any armed group. The community has suffered terribly from political violence, mostly by paramilitary groups supported by the Colombian Army.
Volunteer in Colombia
Training in San Francisco
Note: The next openings on the FOR team in Colombia are in summer of 2010.
The Colombia Peace Presence is an accompaniment project begun in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, one of several rural communities in Colombia that have taken an extraordinary stand against war by refusing to support any armed group. FOR also has a team in Bogotá to support this accompaniment and to highlight other Colombian grassroots peace initiatives that youth, rural communities and others are building around the country. Volunteers serve for at least twelve months. FOR seeks committed and skilled volunteers, 23 years or older at the time of service, with sound judgment and proficient in Spanish.
By Chris Courtheyn
A reflection by a volunteer who lived with the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, upon leaving in late January 2009.
What a year it has been since I arrived in Colombia on February 1st, 2008. I have made so many memories during my time accompanying the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó: trenching through mud with Peace Community members in the beautiful Urabá countryside; last year's commemoration of the horrendous 2005 Mulatos massacre of eight people, including Peace Community leader Luís Eduardo Guerra and his wife and children; wonderful moments of playing and joking with the cute kids; hours with my teammates in our office analyzing threats against the community; and long nights of dancing Colombian-style to vallenato, merengue and salsa. As my departure date nears, while I am looking forward to returning to the US, I cannot help but reflect upon all the things I will miss in Colombia…
Over the past several weeks, two Congressional letters have been sent to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe concerning recent robberies of human rights organizations in Bogota.
The first letter (pdf), signed by Congressman Eliot Engel, chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and six other members of Congress, was sent on June 22nd. It highlighted the robbery of the offices of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) in Bogota. The letter called for a prompt and thorough investigation of the break in.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) denounces what appears to be a politically motivated attack on its offices on June 2 in BogotÃ¡, Colombia.
According to people who live in the same building as FOR, unknown persons forcibly entered the FOR house/office in BogotÃ¡ between 6 pm and 7 pm on June 2, breaking the lock and part of the door. The individuals stole the FORâ€™s two central computers that contain the organizationâ€™s records, including information on the accompaniment of the Peace Community of San JosÃ© de ApartadÃ³. This community has been the target of attacks by the all the armed groups and is covered by protective measures from the Inter-American Court for Human Rights.
The massacre sparked international outrage and could jeopardize U.S. aid. Will security forces finally be brought to justice?
April 1, 2007, Chicago Tribune
By Gary Marx
LA UNION, Colombia â€” Two years ago, 17-year-old Bellanira Areiza and seven other peasants were hacked to death with machetes in the lush hills outside this picturesque hamlet in northwest Colombia.
Community leaders say five residents saw men in Colombian army uniforms take away the victims, and nine others later heard soldiers bragging about the killings. But, until now, the Colombian government's investigation into the massacre went nowhere.
The FOR Colombia program has recently signed a partnership agreement with the Spanish organization Acompaz. As result of this partnership, the Colombia Peace Presence Team in in San JosÃ© de ApartadÃ³ will be expanded to accommodate an additional Colombia Peace Presence member, bringing the team to three. The expansion of the team, to begin in February 2007, will provide invaluable help in strengthening international support for the Peace Community of San JosÃ© de ApartadÃ³, specifically supporting the Peace Communityâ€™s return to lands from which they had been forcibly displaced and establishing Humanitarian Zones there. Additionally, the Peace Community will benefit from increased outreach and advocacy in the European Union.
In requesting international accompaniment, the Community made the decision to raise its profile in order to protect itself. The founding of a peace community is a proactive strategy and the international presence is an additional ingredient. In addition, the request shows the desire of the Community that its history be documented not only for its own memory, but also for the outside world. Each time that we celebrate three months of resistance we do so in remembrance [of the victims], because they have offered their lives and did so choosing peaceful alternatives.
The theory of accompaniment