Don Joaquin hardly moves across the village,
leaning on a walking stick,
step by step,
as though every movement required him an effort,

his face and hair are gray like someone who has seen many things go by,
both beautiful and ugly,
how life can be.

When he speaks he stares at you,
weighing his words,
observing if you are really listening to him.

"Me entiendes?"
"Do you understand me?"

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The paramilitary groups came on Saturday. More specifically, they came on Saturday, 8th July 2000. They entered the village of Union, where dozens of families from the Peace Community had just come back after spending a lot of time in San José to feel safe during the conflict. They came, and were coordinated by the Brigada XVII of the army. There were twenty hooded paramilitary soldiers and they came in the afternoon, around 3 p.m.. They gathered all the people in the square of the village, shouting and asking who their leaders were. The members of the Community replied all together that there was no leader, as everyone was the leader.
So the armed soldiers chose 7 men randomly: Rigoberto Guzman, his brother Jaime Guzman, Elodino Rivera, Diofanor Diaz Correa, Humberto Sepulveda, Pedro Zapata and Eliecer Guzman, who was only fourteen, and was Rigoberto’s and Jaime’s nephew.

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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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