They will call me subversive: and I will tell them: “I am. For my struggling people, I live. With my people on the march, I walk”. (Father Casaldàliga)

For several days, thousands of Colombian citizens have been taking to the streets in the main cities of the country to march peacefully and express their dissent over the tax reform. The reform represents a real guillotine for many families who are already paying, on one hand, the economic consequences of the pandemic and, on the other, the violence against social and environmental leaders perpetrated by neo-paramilitary units, the dissidence of the former FARC-EP and the ELN guerrillas which control many areas of the country thus hindering the possibility to live in peace.
From the beginning, the protests seemed the continuation of that cry for social justice and rule of law that had begun just a few months before the pandemic in Chile as well as in Colombia.

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“...if we keep silent, they’ll kill us, if we speak, they’ll kill us anyway. This is why we are going to speak”
(Cristina Bautista, indigenous leader killed in October 2019)

On March 23rd the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó celebrated its 24 years of life and fights. No one like the Peace Community has been able to resist and persist. Their members have transformed in hope the pain of a conflict which has been lasting for years and has been marking the bodies and souls of all these farmers.
This year, as usual, the Peace Community recalled some of the most memorable steps of its history. Their members read the Constitution of their Community, they sang their songs about resilience and sacrifice all day long, while their anthem was resonating across the hills from dawn to dusk. They listened to the words of the deceased members of the Community, which had been recorded years before in distant countries by crackling microphones. But despite the years and the crackle, you could still hear the most important words in their speeches loud and clear: justice, peace, truth.
This year, as usual, people gathered around the entrance gate grabbing in their hands and holding in their chests the pictures of the Community members who have sacrificed their lives in the name of their dream of freedom. All the Community together walked to reach the places where new innocent people had been killed even in these months. These people were not members of the Community, but they still deserved a prayer and a thought, because oblivion can kill twice.

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In Colombia, in the Abibe mountain range, Urabà region, on 21 February 2005, a joint military and paramilitary operative group put an end to the lives of Luis Eduardo, Bellanira, Deiner, Sandra, Alfonso, Natalia and Santiago, members of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadò, and Alejandro. Deiner was only 11 years old. Natalia was only 5 years old. Santiago just 18 months.
Since then, every year, on February 20th, the entire Community, accompanied by national and international organizations, has been making a pilgrimage, a journey of about 6 hours, to reach Mulatos and Resbalosa villages where the terrible massacre of innocent lives occurred. There, on February 21st, the Paece Community has been commemorating the death of those persons.
Since 2009, every year, Operazione Colomba has been standing by the Community to commemorate with them what happened, out of solidarity, out of justice.

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In Colombia, as in other Latin American countries, there is a ritual at the stroke of midnight, between the sunset of the old year and the dawn of the new one, which consists in burning a muñeco - the symbol of the year which has come to an end - and, through the fire, "eliminating" the negative things that happened.
Therefore, the last days of December are spent to search for old trousers, t-shirts or shirts, sweatshirts and clothes that are no longer used, in order to dress the muñeco of the Old Year by stuffing it with sawdust, paper or any other material that can shape the cloths. Then it is put on a chair sitting in the doorway, in the garden or in the streets.

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Mario Paciolla was a young man whom we knew since he was involved in the Peace Brigades International’s Project in Colombia until 2018 and then in the United Nations Verification Mission in Caquetà, Colombia.
On July 15th, he was found dead in his apartment in circumstances yet to be clarified, even though it was initially stated as a suicide. Mario had a ticket to come back to Naples on July 20th and, for more than a week, he kept on saying to his mother that something really worried him. He was afraid and he wanted to return to Italy.
He was a sociable, committed, loved young man and, above all, a lover of truth and justice. Whatever happened we want to ask for an independent investigation which clarifies the facts. This is why we invite you to subscribe to the truth-seeking request promoted by the Rete Accademica Europea per la Pace in Colombia (Europaz):  https://www.europaz.org/verita-per-mario-paciolla/

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