On 18 and 19 April, we accompanied the Peace Community in its Holy Week celebrations. This year the community decided to carry out the stations of the cross in the hamlets of Arenas Altas and Arenas Bajas, commemorating the peasants assassinated on these lands since the 90s. At that time, paramilitary groups entered the region, looking to control the land and its resources. This led to an escalation of the armed conflict with the FARC, at the expense of the civilian population, who were assassinated and pushed of the land. In 1997, the peasantry of San José de Apartadó decided to unite and declare itself as a neutral party in the armed conflict. This gave rise to a new experience of civil resistance; the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó.
We began the accompaniment in Arenas Bajas along with Father Javier Giraldo, who has provided spiritual and political support to the Peace Community since its creation. During the Holy Thursday Mass, the father reflected on the importance of love and solidarity as the way to live and resist in a peaceful territory. “A huge heart to love, a strong heart to fight.”
The Peace Community is a recognized example of peasant resistance. One of its fundamental pillars is defending the right to protect and work the land –to live on her with dignity. In the 2000s, the community faced economic blockades, during which paramilitary groups prohibited the transportation of food into the rural communities. At that point, the community opted to focus on food sovereignty, as a development alternative.
Throughout the stations of the cross, we made several stops where community members commemorated the murder and disappearance of civilians. Once again, the community sought to remember its dead; they consider memory to be essential to resist political violence.
PBI has accompanied the Peace Community since 1999. Through our physical and political accompaniment we look to guarantee a safe space so that the community members can live and work for a peaceful future.
There was broad participation in the stations of the cross. Children, youth, seniors, international accompaniment organizations, and other friends of the community shared this journey. The Peace Community has a broad support network, both nationally and internationally, and they are beneficiaries of precautionary measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
…. We had plenty of rain!
After a 10 hour hike we reached our last stop. In the words of Germán Graciano, the community’s legal representative, “I do not know how many people in the world have done what we did today. This is an example of memory, fighting against oblivion.”
We finally reached the community, and the mules and horses can rest! These colorful murals are the result of a community art project that looks to reflect daily life in the community. The community is organized using community work, making it possible to sustain their way of life.