Vida y Paz Colombia

IssueDecember 2002 - February 2003
Feature by Vida y Paz Colombia

Is a group whose objective is to raise awareness in British Columbia, Canada, about the Colombian humanitarian crisis and the nonviolent social movements that mobilise for the construction of peace and the defence of human rights.

We have made a collective presentation which shows the profound impact that long-lasting armed violence - from the army, right-wing paramilitaries, leftist guerrillas, narco-traffickers and urban militias - is having on the civilian population and the serious humanitarian crisis experienced in the country. Using several voices, our script draws on our experience as Colombians, popular educators, human rights workers, and refugees. We highlight the rich diversity of resistance movements against the war and their efforts to construct projects for life. A great majority of these grassroots social movements are questioning armed struggle as a peaceful path for the construction of democracy and are building innovative proposals for a democratic citizenship, a pedagogy of nonviolence, and coexistence. These alternative proposals advocate a negotiated resolution to the conflicts and search for equity and social justice in a country with ample social and economic inequalities. Our presentation mixes media (slides and music), performance and verbal information to examine the interrelationships between social justice, conflict resolution and a pedagogy of non violence in the work of Colombian social movements of women, youth, trade unionists, and indigenous peoples.

This group is also a source of mutual support in the face of our experience as immigrants. To be immigrants - be it for political, social or economic reasons - in a country with a different language involves processes of estrangement, pain, personal and family crises, loss of reference points and the social, family and community fabric. It ruptures collective identities and creates a crisis of individual identity. Each person is confronted with this uprooting in a different manner, but for many it involves a kind of “loss of soul”, loss of meaning, of reference points, of sense of purpose, impotence in responding to challenges and changes.