The War on Peace

Colombian villagers are dying to be neutral


| November 6, 2003


Bush and company aren't only ones to adopt the 'with-us-or-against us' rhetoric to frame the issue of domestic dissent. In Colombia, individuals and communities committed to neutrality and peace have long been the targets of brutal violence by warring factions.

Bill Winberg, writing for Americas.org -- the website of The Resource Center of the Americas, an organization dedicated to promoting human rights, democratic participation, economic justice, and cross-cultural understanding in the Americas -- reports on one such community whose steps toward peace have been met with massacres.

Since 1996, more than 100 people have been killed by righ-wing paramilitaries in San Jose, the principal settlement in an unincorporated township of 32 settlements located near the Caribbean gulf of Uraba. The town is part of a larger 'Peace Community' that includes the nearby settlements of Arenas and La Uni?n. Committed to peace since 1997, San Jose's citizens and community council, made up of eight elected members, '[reject] the violence of all sides in Colombia's civil war.'

Although the young men in the settlement are deprived of both education and jobs for committing themselves to peace, it is of little consequence in an out-of-the-way and mostly self-sufficient community. Besides growing their own food and selling a small amount to export companies, the people of San Jose also espouse an ecological ethic of living low-impact lives in their fragile rain forest.

In honor of those who have died, projects in San Jose -- the community center and the fountain outside of it, the maize granary, the carpentry workshop and the preschool -- all bear the names of local martyrs whose greatest offense was believing that violence did not pave the path to peace.
-- Eric Larson

Go there>> The Long Hard Struggle for Peace