Some international peace workers in Colombia have decided not to join a march today against guerilla group FARC. Local human rights activists say it "dangerously oversimplifies" the quest for a just peace.
In Barrancabermeja, the Human Rights Workers Coalition (Espacio) paints a complex picture of the current conflict in Colombia, in response to the organizers of the event, who focus on guerilla activities.
Following the lead of the local partners whom they accompany, Christian Peaceaker Teams Colombia has confirmed it will not participate in the march. Instead it is sharing key issues from "A False Dilemma", Espacio's stated objection to the demonstration.
Ekklesia has received the statement via two US-based CPT operatives who formerly worked in the UK, and who have been serving with the group in Colombia.
Christian Peacemaker Teams seeks to "get in the way" of violence and injustice in situations of conflict, using Gospel-based methods of nonviolence to support indigenous initiatives towards peace based on justice for all.
Colombian expatriates have already held "No More Farc" demonstrations in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, and in three cities in Australia. In Colombia, marches are planned for 45 cities.
BBC correspondent Jeremy McDermott says school has been cancelled across much of the country so that children can join in, and many businesses have given their workers permission to march.
The protest was started on the social networking website Facebook by a 33-year-old engineer, Oscar Morales, from his home in Barranquilla on Colombia's Caribbean coast.
CPT are stressing their unequivocal opposition to the use of violence and terror on all sides, but their partners in the area say that simply condemning opposition may confuse issues of structural and political complicity in state oppression.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Colombia describes itself as "a community made up of trained volunteers from different cultures that forms part of the international, ecumenical organization, CPT. Our work is based in, though not limited to, the Middle Magdelena region of Colombia. We work together on grassroots initiatives to expose and transform structures of domination and oppression through active nonviolence in order to make possible a world grounded in respect, justice and love, even of enemies."
The statement reads as follows:
A FALSE DILEMMA:
To march or not to march in the February 4 protest against the FARC
We, the members of the Human Rights Workers Forum of Barrancabermeja
and the Middle Magdalena (Espacio), whom have suffered with the armed
social conflict, are deeply concerned by the winds of intolerance, the
promotion of hatred and the spurring of polarization in civil society,
that throughout history has left the victims naked and unprotected in
the face of the armed actors of the Colombian conflict.
Given this, in response to the call to participate in the march on
February 4, the social and human rights organizations signed below
have decided NOT TO PARTICIPATE in the march, in order to draw
attention to the false dilemma presented to the Colombian people by
The women and men of Barrancabermeja, along with the social and
political organizations of Espacio, have rejected the methods of
terror, the war and its degraded condition which the legal and illegal
armed actors have brought about. We cry out for a peace with social
justice. To march against the FARC and the kidnapping, as the
promoters of the march propose, will not lead to the recognition and
overcoming of the conflict; that is where the false dilemma lies.
They suggest that if we march we are in favor of peace, and if we do
not we are in favor of war. This simplistic dilemma, perpetuated by
the mass media, leads to reductionism and the homogenization of
political discourse about the social and armed conflict. It
legitimizes the annihilation of social actors who define themselves
outside of this perspective. We believe that within our national
context, it is important not to fall into the trap of this false
dilemma, because to do so means closing off the path to what the
Colombian people really need: "A HUMANITARIAN AGREEMENT, NOW"
It is imperative that the Colombian government acknowledges the social
and armed conflict of more than forty years, which has its origin in,
among other things, deep inequalities and in political, social and
economic exclusion. The government must accept that in those causes
reside the keys for overcoming the conflict.
However, the Government insists on imposing a warrior orientation on
the State, which they call "Democratic Security". The February 4
march, rather than serving as a contribution to peace, harmony and the
unity of the country, becomes a threatening referendum, seeking an
unlimited mandate for military escapades. This march is a smoke screen
that attempts to hide the responsibility of the Colombian State,
corporate executives, cattle ranchers, politicians and others, who
have supported paramilitarism. Under the sway of para-politics,
Colombia has seen forced disappearances, displacements, threats, the
murders of opponents to the government, the hand over of Colombian
interests to the multinationals and the loss of the hard-won popular
guarantees of rights. In sum, this consolidation of inequalities has
resulted in misery, hunger, unemployment and the economic and
political dependency of our country on the North American empire.
Finally, we believe that if the Colombian people must march for
something today it is for a HUMANITARIAN AGREEMENT and the POLITICAL
EXIT to the CONFLICT, for the defense of the people's economic and
social rights, and for the vindication of the national sovereignty
with respect to the land and the people.
Human Rights Workers Forum of Barrancabermeja and the Middle Magdalena
(Espacio de trabajadores y trabajadoras de Derechos Humanos de
Barrancabermeja y el Magdalena Medio)
Barrancabermeja, the Middle Magdalena
February 1st, 2008
Signed by the following organizations who are part of the Espacio:
Campesino Association of the Cimitarra Valley - ACVC -
Regional Corporation for the Defense of the Human rights - CREDHOS
Popular Women's Organization - OFP-
Program for Development and Peace of the Middle Magdalena - PDPMM-
Unión Sindical Obrero - USO
Diocesan Commission for Life, Justice and Peace.
Pastoral of Workers - Diocese of Barrancabermeja.
Central Unitaria de Trabajadores - CUT
Barrancabermeja Youth Collective
Student Movement of UNIPAZ
[CORRECTION: We have been informed that although the original letter listed Peace Brigades International and Christian Peacemaker Teams as "International Community" at the bottom of this letter, CPT and PBI are only observers of Espacio and, as such, are not signatories to the letter sent out by Espacio.]