Back in Bogota. We feel as if we have been in a movie. The changes are quite fast and our soul has to digest.
The conversation with Padre Javier Giraldo helped us today. He is something like the father figure of the peace community, in whom they have absolute trust. He was an intimate friend of Eduard Lancheiro and helped them to found the Peace Community.
After the horrific massacre in February 2005, the community decided to stop having relations with the Colombian judicial apparatus unless it admitted its mistakes, corrected them and asked for forgiveness. The judicial apparatus had frequently violated the rights of community members, initiated criminal proceedings with false witnesses, and, above all, ensured absolute impunity for hundreds of crimes committed by the state against the community. There was no justice. In 2010, a trial was underway against ten high-ranking military officers. They were accused of being involved in the massacre in the peace community of San José de Apartadó in February 2005. Time and again, fears that there would be an unpunished outcome for the defendants in this trial proved true.
All these years, the Padre has dedicated his life to clarifying the injustices, he knows in detail all the cases where people have acted against the peace community, and spends a large part of his time in Bogota working for truth and justice.
The padre is a Jesuit, he lives in a monastery in Bogota, works closely with Gloria Guartas and has just published a new book, “The Gasp from the Bottom of the Swamp,” where he makes clear how corrupt the system and especially the justice system is. “Never again will I work with this justice system,” he said, handing us the book, which was just finished three days ago. The new book is something like his life’s work, thoroughly exposing the corruption of the entire judicial system.
Padre is a very modest man, is 78 years old, outwardly hardly aged, lives vegan and a large part of his life consists of giving courage and hope to the poor and abused in the country. This also gives him the strength he needs himself. “Sabine, not a bit changed,” he says laughing as he hugs me in greeting. I feel a deep silent love for him.
Padre tells us in moving words how much the deceit of the last years by the government and the Farc has blocked the peace process and many have completely lost hope.
Truth commissions are underway, but the so-called peace agreement has been a disaster on all levels. President Santos was “the peace president” in the international world, but not in his own country. According to the commission’s findings, 45 percent of the deaths are the fault of the far-right paramilitaries, whose acts were often covered up by the regular army (12 percent). There is also a sense of betrayal on the part of Iván Márquez. For years, he was one of the leaders of the Farc guerrillas, which officially gave up their weapons after the 2016 peace deal with the government and became a party instead. Márquez led the Farc-EP peace delegation in negotiations with the Santos government starting in 2012, and has since officially returned to armed combat in 2019 along with other Farc commanders. Whether this was truly “a reaction to the state’s betrayal of the Havana peace agreement,” as they stated, or a misdirection planned from the beginning, I do not know. One suspects the second. In any case, the great vision that there would be a social revolution and that San José would be a kind of training center for the construction of decentralized peace models, which we held in our hearts along with the peace community, has been severely disappointed.
And now, all of a sudden, a new president comes and wants to start it all over again?
It is easy to understand that people would like to believe that things will be different now, but they are also exhausted by all the false reports. In an interview with PBI, when asked if he still has words of hope, Padre says, “The atmosphere in which the community lives clearly shows that we are facing a very challenging situation, but the heart of the community is ready to face it, as we always do.”
So Padre just never gives up and doesn’t make his actions dependent on whether or not they will succeed. He simply does what needs to be done and he does it with dedication and great thoroughness.
Somewhat mischievously, he tells us about his plans. He is friends with the current Minister of Defense, Iván Velásquez, and has naturally told him a lot about the peace community. Iván Velásquez suggested that he visit the Peace Community.
The Peace Community is having many discussions about whether they want to do it or not.
For them, the absolute condition is that the minister comes without an armed escort and without bodyguards. The question is whether they can take advantage of the handouts offered by the government. Is there a chance for truth, justice and reparation regarding the countless crimes against humanity in the region and can they be resolved? After all, Gustavor Petro goes so far in his demands that he has publicly said: The Armed Forces of Colombia must become an “army of peace.” This is reminiscent of our demand in Palestine/Israel: turn the military stations into peace research stations. Does he mean what he says? Padre is also one of those who believe that the new government could initiate a tremendous transformation, but also knows how many opposing forces they must expect. This would be a huge upheaval, it would be like a miracle if it succeeded this time, but maybe a social revolution goes hand in hand with a cosmic transformation?
The question now is: Do they believe that these demands are serious and have a chance of being implemented? If the meeting with the Minister of Defense takes place, the Padre would like to meet with Iván Velásquez, head of the 17th Brigade, representatives of the peace community and the Minister of Defense in one of the bishop’s homes and ask him to respond to the accusations. These could all be key steps in bringing the truth to light.
Rarely have I looked so deeply into the political situation of a country, rarely have I seen the possibility of further violent crime and the hope for a radical change so close together. One does not want to witness them walking into another trap and being deceived, and at the same time one feels the possibility of actual change very close.
Political thinking and spiritual action have to come together. For this, one sometimes needs a portion of consciously chosen naivety, but nevertheless one must also not blindly walk into a trap.