COLOMBIA: Maybe you shouldn't join our CPT July delegation (but apply immediately if you should)

21 June 2011
COLOMBIA: Maybe you shouldn't join our CPT July delegation (but apply immediately if you should)

 by Stewart Vriesinga

[NOTE: There are still places available on the July delegation; apply immediately if interested!]

Maybe you shouldn't join the Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to northeast Antioquía.  Maybe you are like those activists I met during my speaking tour in Canada, whom I admire because they are actively in solidarity with Colombians resisting oppression and violence without ever even having met any of them.  If you are such a person, there is probably no good reason for you to spend money and contribute to global warming by taking a flight to Colombia to join a delegation.  Your energy and commitment are needed to do work in your home countries on behalf of victims of violence and neo-colonialism in Colombia. 

Speaking for myself, I need to be here in order not to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem.  I know the statistics, and understand the root of the problem: the violent dispossession and displacement of peoples from their traditional territory in order to pave the way for the looting of resources by lumber, oil, agro-industrial, bio-fuel and other corporate interests.  But in my case, the cerebral understanding of the problem only depresses me, and I end up feeling overwhelmed and powerless.  For me, it is my personal relationships with the victims and witnessing their tireless and courageous struggle for justice in the face of incredible odds and that keep me going. 

The last delegation to north-east Antioquía that I helped lead ended up joining our hosts (CAHUCOPANA -a rural grass-roots human rights organization) in a public action in Puerto Berrío in front of the 14th Brigade.  Soldiers of the 14th Brigade are the unpunished perpetrators of fourteen false positives in north-east Antioquía—extrajudicial killings of civilians who postmortem were dressed up in fatigues and presented as guerrillas who had died in combat.  When I witness the courageous denunciations of the perpetrators of these atrocities by people who live and work in the area and could very well end up becoming the next false positives or the victims of paramilitary retaliatory killings, that I overcome my own inertia and am able to resume my activism.  When the people involved become living, breathing human beings whom I have come to care about, instead of statistics, I can no longer stand and watch.

I know from experience that I cannot sustain my activism living full-time in Canada.  I end up feeling defeated and overwhelmed and an important part of me dies inside.  But after being re-energized by our Colombian partners, who cannot afford to wallow in despair, I am once again ready to do what I can, both here in Colombia and during periodic speaking tours in Canada.

Maybe you are not like me.  Maybe you are one of those people with boundless energy who don't need to meet the victims in order to hold their oppressors accountable.  I admire you.

But maybe you feel that you, too, need to be re-energized; or feel that you need to experience things for yourself to get a better understanding of the situation; or feel you would have more credibility if you visited some of those with whom you are in solidarity, or you are considering joining Christian Peacemaker Teams.  If you fall into one of these latter categories, maybe you should consider joining the July delegation to northeast Antioquía.  It begins on 14 July and continues through to 27 July 2011.  Apply today.