I was energized by our visits with the FARC ex-combatants* we met. Their passion and commitment on the journey of reincorporating into civilian life is inspiring. They knew it would be difficult, but are finding it’s even more so than they imagined.
Think about what it’s like to have spent most, if not all, of your life from the time you were 15-18 years old camping, with no modern comforts, training and fighting with a group of people who become like family. After four years of negotiation, you sign a peace agreement with the government. You both agree to the terms. You follow through on your commitments, but the government only follows through on a few points.
How would you feel? What would you do?
FARC combatants laid down their weapons on, among other things, the promise of government assistance in setting up life as a civilian including housing, land, and monies to set up farms and businesses that can become self-sustaining over time. They also admit what they did wrong and are in dialog with those they harmed, seeking reconciliation and peace for both parties. The people we met in three reintegration communities are passionate and sincere in their desire to move forward in creating better lives for themselves and their children. They clearly stated to us that they have no intention of going backward and picking up arms again. It was a very hard and difficult time. They have no desire to repeat it.
At the same time, the folks we talked with do not fault the minority of ex-combatants who’ve chosen to go back to arms and are fighting. They mourn with them the loss of 300 companions who have been assassinated since the Accords were signed; people whom the government is obligated to protect. Some of them fear for their lives yet live in hope and continue to work for peace. They give thanks for the international support received, both material support that allows them to build dignified housing, and spiritual/emotional support that encourages the signers of the Peace Accords to continue in their commitment to peace. Their one strong request to us is to amplify their voices and ask the U.S. government —who are guarantors of the Accords— to pressure the Colombian government to comply.
You can follow the process of peace by reading more at WOLA and stay tuned for action requests from peacemakers in Colombia.
Ruth Noel, PPF Activist Council Member and member of the consejo
* The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) is one of the groups that was involved in Colombia’s 70 years of civil war. In 2016, the FARC signed Peace Accords with the Colombian government, laying down their arms and turning away from violent struggle to engage in peaceful, political change. Members of the FARC may call themselves ex-combatants, reintegrated persons, or signers of the Accords. They are clear that they are still FARC members, and that their struggle has not ended.