Reflections on Colombia
Between December 5-10, 2013, I traveled to Bogotá on behalf of the SOA Watch movement to join the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (CIJP) in celebrating and remembering 25 years of working in defense of human rights in Colombia and their accompaniment of afro-Colombian, campesino and indigenous communities throughout the country. CIJP has been instrumental in exposing human rights violations by the State and paramilitary forces in the country, and has also presented prominent cases before the Inter-American System of Human Rights.

During my stay, I was able to meet with Father Alberto Franco, Executive Secretary of the CIJP; Danilo Rueda, National Coordinator; and Abilio Peña, a member of CIJP. They have all been guest speakers at the November Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning. Also, I was humbled and truly honored to meet with some of the youth leaders and community leaders that CIJP accompany in their search for memory, truth, and justice. Most of the communities that converged in Bogotá to share in celebrating and remembering the CIJP’s 25th anniversary were from the Chocó, one of the most impacted regions of the country, where there are entire communities that are victims of displacement, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings and political persecution. More recently, in Curvaradó (of the Chocó region), a military base – the Batallón de Selva No. 54 – was installed without the prior consent of the community.

CIJP and SOA Watch have been strong allies since SOA Watch joined the Ethics Commission in 2006. Through its members, the Ethics Commission – formed in 2003 – has the ethical and moral responsibility to accompany victims in their construction of truth, justice and integral reparation. Through visits to the communities and by listening to testimonies of survivors, the Ethics Commission is asked to bear witness, to unmask, and to expose the atrocities committed by the State and paramilitary forces, with the hope that the most ravaged and most impacted communities might one day reconstruct their collective consciousness and historical memory, and thus their social fabric. Over the course of five days, I witnessed the resilience, the tenacity, and the humanity with which the CIJP carries out its work. It was truly amazing, and an experience I will not forget.
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