When I first started accompaniment work with CPT in Colombia, I dove right into the intricacies of a multi-layered conflict, with complex actors, and decades—or even centuries—of colonial puppetry, criminal governance, lies, theft, and murder.

With a few months experience, but still very new to the Colombian context and the understandings and practices of nonviolence, I headed back to my community in Canada to report on the work of CPT’s partners. The community of Las Pavas was resisting a multinational palm company whose employees were terrorizing members of the community, uprooting their crops, burning their homes, and poisoning their animals. When I finished, one of the first questions from the audience confused me.

“But, who does the land actually belong to?”

The short answer is that it belonged to the palm company, who bought it as part of a corrupt sale in an elitist scheme and political plan to usurp land for capital gain without providing means for the Colombian people—the vast majority who have been internally displaced multiple times—to find a safe place to settle, develop, and build a dignified life. 

But the long answer is that people, like myself and the person who posed this question, are descendants of the European empire, and have lived within systems that work for us. We inherited the land, the money, and the rules-based international order that offer us justice. In the case of an injustice, we trust these systems to uphold our rights. And in the vast majority of cases, they do.

That’s not the case for the farmers of Las Pavas, or any of the small farming, mining, and Indigenous communities across rural Colombia, who are systematically threatened, silenced, or murdered for standing in the way of capital and power. It’s also not the case for people of colour who cross borders, as we saw this week with the Pylos 9, nine survivors of a horribly tragic shipwreck in the Aegean Sea, initially detained and wrongfully accused for the crimes of the Greek state. Their case was dismissed on Tuesday, but the nine survivors remain detained without reason, the state abusing a system that was never built to protect racialized people.  And lastly, these systems continue to fail the people of Palestine. The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court can issue as many verdicts as they please, and Israel and the United States will continue to ignore them, because they make the rules and the rules are made for them. 

So, as white people and people of privilege and power, whenever we find ourselves asking the questions, “but who has the legal title to the land?” or “were they crossing a border legally?” or “why can’t they resist peacefully?” remember that the system is skewed where peaceful protest by racialized people is vilified and violent incitement by white institutions and states is painted as self-defence.

Picture of Hannah Redekop

Hannah Redekop

CPT Communications Associate

Send Hannah a note: peacemakers@cpt.org

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