Since my first days here in Colombia, I’ve felt the energy and joy of this country regarding the peace accords. “Half a century of war is on borrowed times,” is a phrase I’ve heard many times. The hope I saw, watching television was contagious and we celebrated peace almost like we celebrated a goal while watching a football game. It was really exciting!
The accords in Havana offer commitments to six points: rural reform, political participation of former guerrillas, bilateral and definitive ceasefire, the solution to the problem of illicit drugs, reparation to victims and mechanisms of implementation and verification.
But this is only one of many steps to reach peace effectively. The Colombian population will have a say in response to the issues discussed in Havana. On the 2nd of October there will be a referendum with the question: Do you support the “final agreement for the termination of the conflict and building a stable and lasting peace?”
On the weekend of September 3rd, Chris Knestrick, the CPT Colombia project coordinator and I, went along with the Justapaz team to the community El Guayabo There, Angélica Rincón of Justapaz lead a workshop about strengthening the community. When we arrived, the community welcomed us with a delicious breakfast made by Virginia. We asked her if she had already decided whether to vote yes or no. “I will vote yes,” she answered, “but to be honest, I don’t know what that means. I will vote because this is what organizations are telling us to do.”
On the second day of the workshop, we separated a moment to discuss the agreements. Juan Manuel Martinez, Justapaz’s lawyer, shared each point of the agreement and what would be the possible implications for each result of the referendum. Opening the opportunity for questions and concerns, it was interesting to see the thirst the community had for information, as well as the openness for a better understanding of the significance of peace talks.
Juan Manuel explained the most important part of agreements: compensation for the victims. The victims of the armed conflict, affected by the FARC are going to be compensated, among other rights, as follows: Justice or punishment of perpetrators, restitution and guarantees of non-repetition. At the end of the workshop, the farmers showed a very interesting realism. Even though they haven’t suffered at the hands of the guerrillas, they know very well what an armed conflict causes. They have been suffering threats and violence from paramilitaries. “We have the privilege of not living the consequences of the guerrillas, but we have to put ourselves in the shoes of those who have suffered,” said Edison Peinado.
Earlier this morning, during our devotional time, the farmers shared what peace means to them. Chela is married to Erik and has three kids. She, like many others, has suffered and seen her family suffer because of violence and injustice that many farmers have experiences. Chela said, “The truth is, this peace that men promise us can never be perfect. Only peace that God gives us is perfect.” I agree with Chela. I also believe that the peace Jesus promised us and we find in John 14:27, the peace that he gave us and the invitation he made us to not be afraid, was not a promise of an easy life. However, we have strength and courage, because He is with us, God is with Colombia, and He will help this country to overcome this war and to move towards peace. I have no words to express the privilege of living among Colombians during this beautiful and historic moment in the country.