Friday, March 18, 2005

Support Colombian Peace Communities 

Over at Common Dreams, Mary Turck discusses the Colombian “Peace Communities” and their brave and tragic story. There was a symposium on these communities I heard about up in Denver, I think, and now I wish I’d gone.

It seems that the U.S. (Republican) backed government of Uribe doesn’t like the idea that certain communities in his country have declared themselves weapons-free zones. People in these communities are turning up dead, murdered.

These communities don’t allow the U.S. funded Colombian Army in their towns, and they don’t allow the FARC in, either. The Colombian Army (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pentagon and CIA) insists they have the right to enter at any time. FARC, of course, goes where they want.

This love of peace and human rights makes the peace communities unpopular, you see, on both sides. Kind of like Martin Luther King felt when he was accused of being too soft, or not soft enough.

What are these peace communities like? Well, Bill Weinberg tells us…

San José has declared itself a peace community, which rejects the violence of all sides in Colombia’s civil war. "Our neutrality means we will not participate with any armed actors," says Maria Brigida. "But we will denounce human rights abuses by any side."

Maria Brigida is one of eight members of San José’s community council (including three women) who have been elected every year since 1997, when the community declared its neutrality in a civil war that had claimed many local lives.

Every San José resident over 12 can vote in council elections. By consensus, the young men of the community do not serve in the army, despite official conscription. By not serving, they lose the right to work and to education, but in a remote and largely self-sufficient campesino community, this makes little difference. "If we had a legitimate army, perhaps they would serve," says Maria Brigida. "But not with this army that attacks the civil population and assassinates children."

There’s a lot more at Common Dreams: Trail of Blood Leads from Colombia to US and at: americas.org - Peace Communities

Maybe it’s time to begin some peace communities right here in the USA. It’s certainly time to support the brothers and sisters who have the guts to create ones in Colombia. I’m looking into how best to do that. Writing congresscritters seems fruitless on this front, but it’s a place to start. I’m wondering if there isn’t a more direct way to help…?

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