(Translated by Dan Baird, a CSN volunteer translator)
PEACE IS NOW: WE DECLARE THAT VIOLENCE HAS FAILED AS A MEANS OF CHANGING OUR COUNTRY AND WE PUT FORWARD A CIVIL ALTERNATIVE FOR BUILDING OUR NON-VIOLENT FUTURE.
Text by Javier Moncayo
[Javier Moncayo is a medical doctor at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, where he has done post-doctoral studies in Health Services Administration. Since 2004, he has coordinated the National Network of Regional Development and Peace Programs (Red Nacional de Programas Regionales de Desarrollo y Paz), a network of 17 regional organizations. He is also the coordinator of the Programa de Paz y Desarrollo del Nororiente Antioqueño (Program for Peace and Development in northeastern Antioquia province). Dr Moncayo's son was kidnapped by the FARC guerillas in 1997]
Are you weary of stating again and again that your generation and your parents and no doubt even your children will not have known a single day of peace in all of their lives?
Well, so am I. And I ask you to join with me in stopping this horror. I invite you to create the possibility that the next generation of Colombians will be a non-violent generation.
What can we do? Many things – and here are my proposals:
Let us proclaim that violence has failed. The reasons:
The guerillas' struggle, lasting more than 50 years, has not only failed to produce the revolution, it has brought to the country the worst scenes of war: exploding landmines, kidnappings, recruitment of child soldiers, the destruction of entire villages, terrorism, drug-trafficking ….
The list is long and painful. And the result has been to weaken in the country the possibility of democratic opposition and to strengthen instead authoritarianism and military options.
The paramilitaries set out with the intention of ending the insurgency. But after 20 years not only have they proved incapable of that, but they have filled the cities and the countryside with fear and hatred, leaving wounds that will take more than a century to heal.
The proportion of the gross national product the State spends on defence is one of the highest in the world, yet it has been unable to put an end to violence. On the contrary, it has brought us to the verge of war with neighbouring countries and it rewards serious crime in its efforts to destroy the guerillas.
And there is nothing to have us believe that we are near a long-term solution to the problem. There is no reform that can remove the accumulated pain, that can remove the reasons why thousands of Colombian men and women go to war.
So weapons of war have failed, and should give way to alternatives from civil society. More violence to end violence can only keep us in a circle that will never bring us to peace.
We can all do something – from our homes, in our work and in our daily lives.
Let us refuse to be polarized. In daily conversation at the table, in the office, on public transport, in the street, let us suggest listening and understanding as ways of dealing with the country's problems, always seeking solutions that do not include violence.
Let us suggest a prayer each night, together with our families or our friends, based on our religious or spiritual beliefs, for the end to violence and the beginning of reconciliation.
Let us take part in all the collective actions that call for the end of violence and the building of peace: marches, meetings, conferences, concerts like the concert at Juanes on the border [a joint Colombian-Venezuelan concert for peace]. Let us join with others resolved to seek peace and we will become a group capable of demanding it.
Let us make the coming 9th April a historic milestone in the call for the end of violence. [Presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was murdered on 9 April 1948, starting a long period of political violence]. Let us change that date, connected in our minds with the beginning of violence, into the date of the beginning of peace. Let us organize marches and vigils on that date. Let us fill with white flags the houses and offices of towns and cities, let us stop work that day to demand the end of confrontation and a start to building peace.
From Wednesday 9th April 2008 let us march every Wednesday at noon to demand the end of war and the beginning of reconciliation. This will include calls:
to FARC for the unconditional release of all those they have kidnapped, including police and soldiers, and for a readiness to come to the negotiating table to end the war and demobilize their forces;
to the ELN [another guerilla group, smaller than FARC] to continue their negotiations with the Government leading to the end of hostilities and disarmament and demobilization;
to the paramilitaries to stop rearming, to end for good their involvement in drug-trafficking and tell the country the truth about their actions, with genuine repentance, and to make reparation to their victims;
to the International Community that it provide permanent and impartial help to the country so that it can undertake all the negotiations necessary to begin the peace process;
to the National Government that it become more flexible and be prepared to accept international support and cooperation. Also, that it accept the active participation of civil society in establishing frank and open arrangements for peace negotiations, where there is a guarantee of demobilization, integration and the compensation of victims;
to the National Government, further, that it guarantee the revelation of the truth, and set out the reforms necessary to avoid the future resumption of violence and to ensure that peace is built on sure foundations.
Let us rid ourselves of the idea that this can only be done by those in high places. They have not done it until now, neither now nor in the last 50 years. We need to get rid of this stigma, to root it out. It all concerns us – and it concerns us now.
Let Colombia be a country that lives a culture of non-violence and exports it to the rest of the world!