Paying the Price of Being Advocates for Peace: A Letter from JUSTAPAZ

Paying the Price of Being Advocates for Peace: A Letter from JUSTAPAZ

Bogota, March 2, 2020, from JUSTAPAZ

On February 28, 2020, we were made aware of a new pamphlet where we are described as immediate military targets by the “Black Eagles” (“Águilas Negras”) threatening social leaders, human rights organizations, and entities committed to peace including us.

We raise our voices in rejection of the threats by the Black Eagles, which we can confirm in regions such as Bajo Cauca Antioqueño, Sur del Chocó, Bajo Putumayo, Nariño and other regions, where armed groups, which aim to control the territory, continue systematic actions of intimidation and murder of leaders working for social investment, development, and implementation of the peace agreements.

In a spirit of prayer and solidarity with the families of the murdered leaders and with all those men and women whom, for their conviction to be agents of peace and reconciliation have been stigmatized, we make an urgent call to the international community, civil society as a whole, and churches to urge President Ivan Duque, the government, and local authorities to implement the set of protective measures and care of life that were stipulated in the Peace Agreement and other measures that are necessary to prevent these waves of violence and human rights impacts from continuing to spread throughout the regions.

We call on the national government to guarantee the measures to protect our lives and security, as well as those of the leaders of the religious sector who accompany us in the territories.  Accordingly, we demand that there be guarantees of protection for organizations and persons under threat; collective and differential guarantees for the protection of socio-ecclesial leadership.  We also demand that the perpetrators of such threats be investigated, prosecuted, and punished.

Our task for peace is inspired by the Word of God, as the prophet Isaiah quotes: “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17 NRSV). The spiritual strength of our work is to heal the wounds of armed conflict and work together for welfare, dignified living, and social justice. It is a time of solidarity and renewed impetus for dialogue, reconciliation, and nonviolent action.  It is possible to build a country from the peaceful transformation of conflicts and the social concertation of different sectors and social actors.

All for a peaceful and reconciled country!