American Friends Service Committee
Sara Burke, Managing Editor
Sam Diener, Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Colombians Create Indigenous Peace Force
Photographer Rachel Chandler-Worth traveled to Colombia in October of 2003 on an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) sponsored delegation to visit Communities in Peaceful Resistance.
The territories over which Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities have legal collective titles are rich inresources. Paramilitaries, guerrillas, and the Colombian armed forces (knowncollec-tively as the "armed actors") fight to control these lands and the natural wealth they contain. As a result, the ethnic minorities who live in these territoriessuffer gross injustice at the hands of the "armed actors" — forced displacement, forcedcontainment, forced conscription into the armed groups, massacres, selective assassination, intimidation, disappearances, and indiscriminatefumigation of their lands.
Yet, remarkably, through it all, Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities continue to believe in peace instead ofvengeance. These groups define themselves as "communities in resistance." This termrefers not only to the current situation but also to their historic efforts against social and racial marginalization. The communities inresistance remain neutral in the face of the ongoing violence.
Practically, this resistance takes on many forms — strong organ-izing; solidarity and cooperation; maintaining sustainable and local food production, a strong spiritual and physical connection to the Earth; controlling and protecting land and resources; strengthening cultural and ethnic identity through art, history, and programs for youth; preserving language and customs; training in nonviolent dialogue and negotiation; and under-standing human rights, the law, and the forces of globalization and neo-liberalism.
Our delegation spent a day with an indigenous "Community in Resistance" in the department of Cauca. The Nasa, or Paez in Spanish, have a longhistory of struggle for their rights, and are the heart of the organized indigenousmovement inColombia. They have borne a particularly heavy burden in Colombia’s 40-year conflict. Their territories, coveted for their naturalresources and as drug-trafficking corridors, areincreasingly targeted both by right-wing paramilitary and guerrilla groups. Close to 400 Nasa leaders have been assassinated over the past twenty years.
The Nasa created the Guardia Indigena in 2001 as a response to the violence. TheIndigenous Guard is a body of some 1,000 indigenous volunteers, of both sexes and of all ages, drawn from 304 communities. This "civic guard" is a nonviolent, organized group that maintains a presence in each community and keeps all armed factions out. They carry nothing more than a symbolic "bastón," a decorated stick used in the Nasa culture to signify authority. The Guard enforces the self-imposed community restriction against carrying guns, so as to avoid providing a pretext to any of the armed factions.
They patrol and monitor the territory borders for armed activity. When armed groups are spotted, the Guard warns the community. The community may decide to move towards strategic points of refuge, but one of the purposes of the Guard is toprevent isolation and fear, so that people are not driven from their land one by one. The Guard also coordinates mobilizations ofpeople when there is a threat of violence from the armed groups. These tactics are designed to maximize both community solidarity and the number of witnesses.
The Guard drives out any armed group, because, for example, the presence of guerillas is a magnet for the Army, and vice versa.
The photographs shown here are of members of the nonviolent Indigenous Guard in these communities.
For more information about the war in Colombia, please see theresources at www.afsc.org/latinamerica/peace/Default.htm, including information on a postcard campaign against US military aid. To learn more about the communities of resistance, including an interview with Jose Bernal of the Indigenous Guard, please see www.afsc.org/latinamerica/peace/voices-for-peace.htm. Please also see information on Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Colombia Peace Presence at www.forusa.org. These photographs originally appeared in an art exhibit sponsored by AFSC in Western Massachusetts, www.westernmassafsc.org.