BENEFITING: Christian Peacemaker Teams
EVENT DATE: Aug 01, 2013
This August I will be living and working with a team of Colombian, U.S., and Canadian activists in Barrancabermeja, Santander. ECAP Colombia works in solidarity with labor leaders, human rights defenders, small-scale farmers and miners, and women activists in the region as they work to defend their lives from the effects of armed conflict and corporate-backed militarization. Last summer I spent a month in training to participate in ECAP's work, about which you can read more below.
To cover the costs of my stay in Barranca, I will need to raise $2,250. I have already raised over $500 toward this goal, and I am hoping to raise an additional $1,500 over the next few months. I hope you can help me reach this goal.
ABOUT ECAP COLOMBIA:
A combination of full-time and reservist trained volunteers staff the team. Four to eight Spanish-speaking members are serving in Colombia at any given time. A half-time Support Coordinator works in conjunction with CPT's international offices, and oversees participation in the Canadian Council for International Cooperation’s Americas Policy Group in Canada and the Colombia Steering Committee of the Latin America Working Group in the United States.
The Team is based in and has a long history of working in the Magdalena Medio region, although in recent years we have also begun to do occasional accompaniment in other parts of the country. Our home and office is located in Barrancabermeja, the unofficial capital of the region. Many local nonviolent social and human rights organizations are active in the region. We work to support these local peacemakers in building peace with justice. However, there are also Paramilitaries, the guerrilla, and the state forces are present in this strategic area of Colombia and many of the citizens of the region are the victims of violence perpetrated by right-wing armed actors (both paramilitary and military), and to a lesser extent, by the left-wing guerrilla groups. The Magdalena Medio region is typical of most of the country in that it is resource-rich while many of its citizens struggle against cycles of violence and poverty.
Much of the economic and physical violence benefits powerful national and international elites in their efforts to gain and retain control over valuable resources. Civilians are caught in the crossfire between the military and paramilitaries and their guerrilla opponents and civilians are also often directly targeted. These forces are most likely to target civilians if they are politically active and/or occupy land coveted by powerful legal and illegal business interests. For example, multinational corporations are using physical and economic violence to displace peasant farmers to take land to plant palm oil to sell to the Global North. As of May 2009, more than four million Colombians have displaced from their lands, homes and livelihoods due to violence and threats of further violence. Women are disproportionately represented among the displaced.
As stated above, much of the work of ECAP Colombia is to accompany threatened communities, organizations and their leadership. But what exactly does "accompaniment" mean?
Communities we accompany:
Community Process of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza
Constituent Assembly of Micoahumado
Community Process of Tiquisio
Community of Las Pavas
Organizations we accompany:
Federation of AGROMISBOL
Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in Northeast Antioquia (CAHUCOPANA)
Human Rights Workers’ Forum of Barrancabermeja (ESPACIO)
Movimiento Social de Mujeres Contra la Guerra y por la Paz
By accompaniment we mean both: 1) having a physical presence in the communities and with the organizations we accompany, and 2) doing advocacy work on their behalf.
1) Our physical presence in communities/organizations demonstrates to both members and leaders of organizations as well as armed actors that they are not alone; members of an international organization are present to witnesses and report on whatever is happening, and will non-violently intervene when armed actors abuse the rights of civilians. We ask violators to cease and desist from any behaviour that places civilians at risk or abuses their rights, and make it known that we will report all abuses to local authorities, local, national and North American government representatives, the media, and our international support base. We also publish an annual Human Rights Report and occasionally call for Urgent Action on the part of our support base and government representatives. These actions and interventions on the part of the team also intended to deter violence and humans rights abuses on the part armed actors.
2) Advocacy work for the organizations and communities we accompany is based on the understanding that justice must prevail before peace can be attained. It seeks to support our partners’ initiatives in their struggles to end violence and impunity, and to have their rights to life with dignity and territory respected. It also raises the profiles, not only of community/organization leaders, but also of their struggle for justice. Raising their profiles increases the political cost of doing them harm, and thereby diminishes the ability to oppress them with impunity. It also helps brings their experiences of injustice and their demands for justice to the national and international level, thereby increasing their chances of getting a fair trial in judicial and governmental procedures. Advocacy work takes many forms, all of which address the imbalance of power that allows decision makers to disregard the needs and rights of the communities and organizations most affected by oppression and violence.