by Kristen Kuriga
When friends have asked me about my time in Colombia, my initial response is intense — full of life — big. In the span of ten days I witnessed and experienced the context of the conflict in Colombia, its effect on youth, and the creative ways that ACOOC and the Red Juvenil have developed an alternative path for youth built on the principles of nonviolence, conscientious objection, and art. And I met people who inspired me and filled me with a sense of possibility and resilience. In the midst of armed conflict and daily violence, poverty, and the repression of dissident voices, the youth that I encountered emanated love, life, joy, and celebration. What was at the core of this? I saw community, self-created family, vision, play, and most of all creativity!
Free Speech Radio News is a nationally-syndicated progressive political radio program that appears on more than 60 FM radio stations nationwide, including the Pacifica network (such WBAI in New York City and KPFA in Berkeley, CA). On tomorrow’s program (Thursday, April 9), the voices of both FOR Communications Co-Director Ruby Sinreich and long-time FOR leader George Houser will appear during a feature segment about the Journey of Reconciliation (JOR).
The feature was developed recently by FSRN’s North Carolina-based reporter/producer Lynda-Marie Taurasi, who attended the JOR commemoration that was held five weeks ago in Chapel Hill, NC, at the end of February. George Houser traveled from New York to participate in this commemoration, and Ruby Sinreich played a key role in helping the local activist community organize the program and affiliated events that week.
Help FOR support peace efforts in Colombia and demilitarize U.S. policy.
On Saturday, April 4th, two national anti-war coalitions — United for Peace & Justice and the Bail Out the People Movement (affiliated with the International Action Center/ Troops Out Now Coalition) — organized some 10,000 peace activists in New York City to call for an immediate end to the Iraq occupation, a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and massive investment in jobs and ending poverty at home. Fellowship of Reconciliation staff and leaders were in the forefront of this national mobilization.
Last Friday was over the top, the cup brimming full. It was fun, deep, emotional, and extremely creative. Besides for playing trust games, group rhythm exercises and silk screening t-shirts with messages like “No Army Defends Peace,” we used council practice to open up a space in which folks from the U.S. could share their personal experiences. Council practice brings with it certain principles: speaking from the heart, deep listening, and offering what you have to say spontaneously, without too much planning from beforehand. In the midst of the incredibly vibrant and energetic space of the Red Juvenil house, we created a quiet circle in which each person picked up a green plastic ball in the center when he or she was ready to speak. The question was: what has been your personal experience of violence?
International news this weekend focused on the (failed?) effort by the North Korean government to launch a rocket into orbit — one which would allegedly have the capacity to send an armed missile at targets in Japan, the U.S., or other sites. Analysts are debating whether the initiative achieved its goal, and regardless of its success, world leaders have condemned the initiative, which sparked an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. This satellite test ironically happened at the same time as multiple efforts to change U.S. policy relative to the Korean peninsula have been gaining momentum, and will unfortunately threaten the viability of those efforts.
[Ed. note: this brief reflection from San Francisco-based youth activist Rafael Moreno was sent from Colombia, where Moreno & other members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation's youth arts & activism delegation have been visiting young activists in Bogota & Medellin.] Yesterday's visit with members of Red Juvenil was one of the best days of the trip so far. Many of the youth and staff at Red Juvenil remind me of the organization I’m part of — HOMEY’s (Homeys Organizing in the Mission to Empower Youth). I guess it’s because the youth are free to be themselves, have fun, and nobody is seen as more important to their organization than another person; everybody is treated the same.
Today I was handed a postcard that Lutheran World Relief recently sent to FOR, as part of this month's Days of Prayer and Action campaign, to bring attention to the four million displaced people in Colombia. The postcard, addressed to President Obama, is a way for people to highlight this humanitarian crisis — which forces some 1,500 people from their homes every day — and to call on the U.S. government to end all military aid to Colombia.
The U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation is a member of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), which is based in the Netherlands and has more than 80 member groups around the world. IFOR also hosts the international office for the Women's Peacemaker Programme (WPP), which works globally to address issues of gender equity, women's empowerment, and community-based conflict resolution strategies.
WPP distributes regular e-newsletters with updates on the efforts of members of their global network, especially groups that are based in Africa and Asia. Today a message was sent out soliciting trainers for upcoming programs being sponsored by WPP. We share that info here:
Thee first report has just been received from the Fellowship of Reconciliation's March-April 2009 youth arts & action delegation to Colombia. This reminds us to encourage all FOR supporters to sign up to participate in the upcoming Days of Prayer & Action for Colombia, which will be held on April 19-20. This year, thousands of homemade dolls will be given to U.S. elected legislators, as a means of encouraging them to remember the hundreds of thousands of Colombians who have been displaced and injured in the continuing conflict.