Seeding the Work that Reconnects in Colombia in times of war and peace
It has been three years now that we’ve been seeding the Work that Reconnects in Colombia, in times of great transformation. After 6 years of negotiations in Cuba, a – revised – peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been signed on the 24th of november 2016. If in the coming years a deal is also reached with the other guerrilla, the ELN, more than 50 years of internal conflict might come to an end. That is if the current rise of paramilitary violence against civil society leaders and rural communities will be dealt with and no longer denied by the government.
In an earlier referendum on the peace deal with the FARC, and much to the surprise of insiders and outsiders, the NO-vote won with a very small minority (50.24% voting against). Almost all of the communities on the countryside who had experienced themselves the terrible cruelties of war, voted in favour of the agreement. But many people in the less affected urban areas, incited by the extreme right led by former president Alvaro Uribe and evangelists movements, voted against peace. It created a very polarised and dangerous political climate, which is still creating havoc in the country, as does the rise of paramilitary violence against civil society leaders.
Maybe the most striking fact of the referendum was the huge abstention: 63%. How painful it was to witness the lies, but also the apathy, even amongst some of my Colombian friends. It felt like watching a bird cage being opened, waiting for the beautiful bird inside to fly and discover his freedom…but there he was, sitting on his stick, seemingly not able to fly anymore and feeling what it means to be free.
Colombia is so fortunate to still harbour a lot of “Magía Salvaje”; the war paradoxically also preserved lot of its natural beauty despite the increasing number of megaprojects and coca-crops. Now many international investors see golden opportunities in what they believe will be a more stable climate to exploit its resources. Rural people—and afrocolombian and indigenous communities in particular—are in conflict with a government that has sold off ancestral land, forests, and water to these private interests. And it’s dangerous to be a person defending land, life, and resources in Colombia: since the signing of the peace accord and the start of its implementation, attacks against civil society activists have increased at an alarming rate, with around 127 killed last year and a spike in killings this year. While the FARC accord has significantly reduced overall violence in the country, the demobilization of these fighters has created vacuums throughout the country, which are in turn being occupied by paramilitary successor organizations that are making their presence known through selective killings and death threats. See this article from WOLA.
Will the road to peace lead to an intensified war against Mother Earth – and the people protecting her?
It’s here where grassroot spiritual leadership on the ground gets in – and where the Work that Reconnects can help create resilience, renew alliances and inspire creative visions. If the war really comes to an end in Colombia, reconciliation might take generations, unless the Great Mother brings them – and us all – back to our senses in the coming years, helping us to come home.
The popularity of president Juan Manuel Santos is worryingly low and winning the Nobel Prize for Peace hasn’t helped improve that. Next year presidential elections will be held, and if the extreme right camp wins again, they will certainly try to undo much of the peace deal, for example on restorative justice, political participation of the guerrilla, land reform and (the very revolutionary!) acceptance of women rights in the ownership of the land. For more information on the peace process, the blog of Ginny Bouvier or Wola research and advocacy organization, can be helpful resources. Or the (spanish) articles of Francisco de Roux in El Tiempo newspaper.