Monday, March 30, 2009

Twelve years of being the change

On March 23rd the Peace Community celebrated twelve years of existence and resistance with a small ceremony and a brief march to the cemetery in village center of San Jose where many of the Community’s dead are buried. Those present honored, with two minutes of silence, the memory of the 184 Peace Community members killed in the last twelve years, and reaffirmed their resistance against a litany of state crimes: massacres, forced displacement, rapes, extrajudicial executions, food blockades, house burnings, robberies, and threats.
According to the state, however, the Peace Community just needs to get over the past. In a recent meeting, an army official complained to us that the Peace Community is always harping on the past, and that they should move on and think about the future. “Things are different now,” he said. “We train the soldiers in human rights. In fact, the army has declared 2009 ‘the year of human rights’.”

If I myself, an outside observer, can’t forget the brutal history of the Peace Community, how can those who’ve actually suffered it actually forget a past that includes, just 4 years ago, the massacre and dismemberment of 5 adults and 3 children, committed by the army in collaboration with paramilitaries? The state wants to wipe the slate clean, and so condemns the Community for conserving the memories and demanding and end to impunity.

But even if the slate of history were swept clean, would the present look much different, as the official asserted? The day following the Community’s anniversary, we set off on an accompaniment trip to La Resbaloza and Mulatos, the 2 outlying veredas (hamlets) in which the 2005 massacre occurred and where just over a year ago the Community sponsored the return of several families that had displaced from their land after the massacre. The recent actions of soldiers in La Resbaloza indicate that just because the army is conducting some form of training in human rights doesn’t necessarily mean that those human rights are being respected.

Last week, for example, soldiers attempted to rape a woman in La Resbaloza, and threatened her and the man with her with death if they reported the attempt. In another incident, one of the Community leaders, a sweet older man who has land in La Resbaloza and spends about half his time there, returned to his farm recently to find much of his freshly-harvested bean crop eaten and several pots and tools missing after a troop of soldiers had passed through. Now, when he leaves the farm for a few days, he has taken to hiding his pots, pans and tools so they’re not also taken. All the soldiers are desconfiados, he says. Untrustworthy. Back in the towns and cities, paramilitaries have been distributing leaflets threatening social cleansing; in other words, death to prostitutes, drug users and other “undesirables,” and a recent increase in murders confirms the validity of such threats. When questioned about such leaflets, the very same army official dismissed the threats as unimportant since they had been distributed throughout the country, as if somehow their widespread distribution negates the danger.
As a community leader affirmed during the twelfth anniversary commemoration, the community dreams of a different world. But they don’t just dream about it; contrary to the army official’s assumption, the Peace Community is building that different world. At the commemoration ceremony, the construction of a new agricultural research and study center was announced, and the Peace Community can pride itself on long operating under a cooperative work model, practicing nonviolence, and having developed organic cacao and baby banana export projects. With the memories of the past – loved ones murdered, tortured, robbed, raped – to drive them forward, the Community continues, as Mahatma Gandhi said, to be the change they want to see.

1 comment:

KHollis said...

Hi Moira--
This is Karyn Hollis, your mom's friend at Villanova. I am awed and inspired by your blog. I have learned so much from it too. Your commitment is profound and moving and I know the work of the Peace Community makes a difference down there little by little. Take good care of yourself!