The risks and dreams of peace

In August, the PBI Field Team in Uraba accompanied the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) on a visit to different communities which this organisation works with in Lower Atrato (Choco) and in Dabeiba (Antioquia). CIJP travelled with a DIPAZ (Dialogo Intereclesial por la  Paz) delegation to educate about peace, explain the achievements which were attained in the Havana agreements that benefit farming communities, and share one of its greatest priorities at this time. In parallel to our journey, another DIPAZ team will travel though Cauca and Valle del Cauca departments with international accompaniment by SWEFOR.

DIPAZ is a group of representatives from churches and faith-based organisations, which participates in social processes and accompanies communities to build peace with social justice. They joined together around a common agenda in order to influence the Havana dialogues.  Their principles are truth, justice, anti-militarism and non-violent actions, and reconciliation.


One of the points that DIPAZ succeeded in introducing to the negotiations between the Government and the FARC, is how churches could provide oversight to the guerrillas’ disarmament process.  In the first stage, the FARC will bring together their former troops in the Transitory Normalization Areas and Transitory Normalization Points.  And that is where DIPAZ has a key proposal. The Transitory Areas and Points will have monitoring and verification mechanisms made up of the Government, the FARC and the UN, (with unarmed observers from members of CELAC, the Latin American and Caribbean States).  But DIPAZ seeks to reinforce this with the creation of Humanitarian Protection Houses, where civil society, with support from churches, could play an active role in providing oversight of the disarmament process, but also of the social conditions which exist in the regions.

There is a lack of information on a national level, and in rural areas, where the main fears centre around the uncertainty which still prevails because of the persistence of neo-paramilitary groups.  In CIJP’s workshops, Abilio Peña told the communities how, in Havana, a Unit for Investigation and Analysis for dismantling paramilitarism and a Monitoring Commission were created that will include representatives from the FARC and the Government, representatives of organisations of the victims of paramilitarism, and academic experts.

Educating about the agreements is fundamental, not least because, as CIJP explains in these sessions, there are several points which benefit the communities as farmers and victims of the armed conflict.  Unless they find out about these new rights, these reparation measures could pass them by unnoticed. The workshops awoke strong interest and the communities took part very attentively.


In Dabeiba municipality will be one of the 23 Transitory Areas of Normalisation.  The Community of Life and Work of la Balsita is a settlement of family farmers who were displaced in 1997 by the paramilitary violence.  They took refuge in hostels in Dabeiba and thought they would be back home in a week. Nearly 20 years passed and they still have not gone home, but they have not lost the hope of doing so one day. The place where they are now is two days’ walk from their lands.  They have these five principles painted on the wall of one of their central houses and they sing them in their hymn too.

– We claim our rights from the State

– The armed actors respect our decision

– Community and family work

– We protect nature’s life

– The memories of our victims

After a week of travelling through Dabeiba, Curbarado, Cacarica and Turbo, you start to think that, despite the uncertainty generated by the negotiations in Havana (in which not all the armed actors in the conflict took part), and how so many economic interests are vying for the land and besieging these communities, it is a good time to dream once again of the land they once had and where they want to build on.



Maria Ligia Chaverra is a historic leader from the Curbarado river basin and the Camelias Humanitarian Zone.  In this region, the underlying worries are the economic interests in the land and the advance of monocrop cultivation.

9_Cacarica y CIJP_web

Erika is a member of CIJP in the Lower Atrato region, heading upriver in the Cacarica basin. CIJP has accompanied the Cacarica communities since 1997, the year when thousands of people were displaced by Operation Genesis,[1] a coordinated action between paramilitaries and the then commander of the XVII Brigade, Rito Alejo del Rio.  In December 1999, the communities decided to return after uniting to form the Communities of Self-Determination, Life and Dignity (CAVIDA). PBI accompanied their return at CIJP’s request.


In the Humanitarian Zones of Nueva Esperanza en Dios and Nueva Vida, in the collective territory of Cacarica, there is a new generation that is growing up and enjoying the fruits of CAVIDA’s work. One example could be the school, where the teachers are from the community and supported by CIJP, in Nueva Esperanza Humanitarian Zone.

In the photograph is part of the monument that the women built as an association, next to the sports Coliseum in Turbo, where they lived when they were displaced during almost four years.

The women of Clamores association, from Rio Sucio, decided to stay in Turbo after the 1997 displacement.  But this does not mean an end to the struggle.  Their work defends the right to integral reparation of people who were victims of Operation Genesis, and the construction of historical memory.


On a canvas, the Clamores women painted the displacement, but they also did it to show that remembrance is still alive, and to show their lands before “the violence”, before the displacement.  Today, this imagining of their pillaged land is forged together with CAVIDA’s resistance in the midst of the armed conflict.

Julia Ortiz, field volunteer in the PBI Uraba team


[1]  El Espectador: “Operación Génesis” al desnudo, 9 January 2014

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