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CRLN is pleased to support the work of partner organizations with funds we will raise through our annual bike-a-thon, Pedal for Peace, which will take place on Sunday, Sept. 22, 1:30 – 4:30.  This week we focus on Concern America.

Concern America believes that the transformation of impoverished communities comes from engaging local members in the solutions to their problems.  Concern America’s Field Team Members not only train local people to become health promoter practitioners in their own communities, they also visit the villagesto assist in providing health consults.  In addition, they meet with community members to discuss the mutual support between the communities and their health promoter practitioners and to develop solutions to improve the health conditions in the community. For more information on Pedal for Peace Visit our Upcoming Events Section.

Here is a field report from a Concern America Field Team Member:


“When we visited Juana’s village, I was impressed to see the amazing support from the rest of the community. When we arrived, people immediately came to the boat to unload all of the equipment, medicines, etc. In the meeting with the community, the president was very supportive and very appreciative of Juana’s work, and also expressed interest in having another member to be trained to work alongside her.


This support was also evident during the consult and made a huge difference in the effectiveness of the work. First, the clinic days had a really high turnout, which shows not only the strong organization that was done beforehand but also the faith that people have in the Practitioner’s work. In addition to the general consult, we did a dental campaign and a deworming campaign, with over 120 children participating in each (which actually tapped us out of some supplies!) Another reason we were able to 
accomplish so much was Luzmila, the treasurer of Juana’s health committee, who really helped with the flow of things. It was a very positive experience and I was particularly excited to see how the community valued the health program and Practitioners and the importance of including women in this work.”

For more information about Pedal for Peace, click on Pedal for Peace bike-a-thon under “Upcoming events” on CRLN’s home page.

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Please call your Rep TODAY and


ask that they sign on to the McGovern “Dear Colleague” letter in support of key goals of Colombia’s peace negotiations.


The letter’s deadline Thursday, May 8th!

 

 The brief letter supports and congratulates


the members at the negotiating table for making the progress they have thus far but, more importantly, also calls for a ceasefire while the negotiations continue in order to stop the bloodshed in the meantime. A statement like this from US officials sends a powerful message to the main actors in the Colombian conflict: The peace accord is crucial, but NOW is the time for peace in Colombia!


1.

Call you’re the Congressional hotline (202) 224-3121, tell them your member of Congress (

click here if you don’t know

), then ask to be connected. Once connected, ask for the foreign policy staffer and tell them any variation of the following:

“I’m calling to ask that Rep. ____________ sign onto the McGovern Dear Colleague letter regarding the Peace Process in Colombia. The letter supports and congratulates the members at the negotiating table for making the progress they have thus far but, more importantly, also calls for a ceasefire while the negotiations continue. As a member of Rep. ___________’s district, would like to see him/her support calls for peace amidst the longest civil war in our hemisphere and a conflict wherein 80% of those killed are civilians. The peace accords need to be signed and the bloodshed needs to stop. I hope Rep. _______ will add his/her name to that call.”


2.

If the foreign policy staffer isn’t available, ask that the person give and spell the email address for that staffer so you can send them the same message in an email.


3.

Also ask to be connected to the staffer’s voicemail so you can leave the message and ask for a return call.


If you’re in Rep. Davis’ or Schakowsky’s districts, please call to thank them!

They’re already on this letter and could use constituent support to justify continued solidarity with Latin American social movements. Plus you can gently express that you hope they’ll urge their colleagues to join too!

This is an important moment where we can ask our Representatives to intervene in our hemisphere’s longest running civil war, a war that we help fuel with billions of dollars in military aid. Ask your Representative to make a statment urging peace instead of ongoing violence!

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Article by CRLN staff member, Celeste Larkin and Chicago organizer, Martin Macias, published on truthout about a mostly people of color delegation to Colombia to visit African descendant communities organizing for their autonomy, land and lives. Celeste and Martin report back from their trip and explore what it means to be in solidarity with the communities they met in Colombia.

Click here to read the full article.

Globalizing
the Struggle, From Ferguson to Colombia: State Violence and Racialized
Oppression Know No Borders

 

Jumping Rope in Buenaventura: Children from the community of La Playita play across from the site of where paramilitaries would torture and brutally dismember residents. Residents tore it down and built a community center next door.

Jumping Rope in Buenaventura:

Children from the community of La Playita play across from the site of where paramilitaries would torture and brutally dismember residents. Residents tore it down and built a community center next door.

For decades, Afro-descendant
communities in Colombia have fought for autonomy and self-determination as a
response to government policies that produce multiple forms of violence in
their communities. Fully aware of, and in solidarity with, mobilizations in
Ferguson, Afro-Colombians recognize the common dreams of movements for racial
justice for people of color people across the hemisphere. Two members of a
delegation that visited these communities in August 2014 reflect on their own
solidarity process and explore the ways that transnational solidarity manifests
(or doesn’t) in movements. How can we move beyond allyship and towards a
practice of co-struggling?

One week after Michael Brown was
murdered in Ferguson, nine US-based activists and artists of color and one white
woman traveled to meet racial justice movement leaders in Colombia. Our
delegation was led by

Proceso de Comunidades Negras

(PCN, Black Community Process), a collective of African-descendant Colombian groups focused
on cultural and political power for Colombia’s black population. The history of
dispossession is a long one for African descendants in Colombia and across the
diaspora i.e. European colonial conquests, subsequent violent and dehumanizing
economies of enslavement, the state’s denial of social services and
reparations. With the energy of the #BlacksLivesMatter mobilizations flowing
through our hearts and minds, we began our weeklong human rights delegation
throughout the Southwest Valle de Cauca region of Colombia.

Communities in that region have
experienced displacement and disenfranchisement (and/or the threat of them) for
decades as a result of large-scale infrastructure development, tourism
expansion projects and agricultural policies that favor production of export
crops (mainly sugar cane) over domestic food production. Some communities are
actively resisting illegal mining operations that destroy and usurp their
ancestral territories. Residents are actively resisting the destruction/capture
of their land which comes as a result of illegal mining operations. The
directors of these illegal enterprises operate with impunity – which is further
demonstrated by their use of paramilitary forces to threaten or assassinate
community leaders.


Reparations


And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or
a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the
seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him
out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish
him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress:
of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou


shalt give unto him. And thou shalt
remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God
redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.


– DEUTERONOMY 15: 12-15

It’s with this Biblical passage that
Ta-Nehisi Coates started his crucial essay, ”

The Case for Reparations

The passage has very real implications: if a person or community has been
subjected to a traumatic period (or century) of bondage and dispossession, it
would be unjust and ahistorical to expect that they can immediately begin a
productive, happy life with such a deficit in power, resources, and
self-determination. Indeed, the historic and collective dispossession of
Afro-Colombians must be reconciled through amends and reparations, or the
imbalance of power at all levels of society will continue and their newfound
“equality” will be nominal only.

Yet instead of redistributing the
wealth created off the backs of generations of people of color and through
racist and violent projects of dispossession, the US government has
successfully streamlined capital and resources into the lucrative projects of
the military industrial complex which has been utilized to maintain order more
than protect and serve. The racialized patterns of criminalization within this
environment of military build-up have created an era wherein the bodies of
people of color are treated as criminal until proven innocent. And it is within
this setting of very immediate violence and years of residual trauma that
Coates’ call for reparations historicizes the urgency for fundamental changes
for communities of color.


CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING THE ARTICLE.



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The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America and our Chicago partners made a visit to Senator Durbin’s office on Monday, May 18th in celebration of the international Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia. This year’s theme was “Tomorrow’s Peace Starts Today”. We delivered a “SHALOM” banner, courtesy of the 8th Day Center for Justice, and we discussed calls for the U.S. government to shift billions in military aid to help implement the Peace Process in Colombia.

We discussed the root causes of the conflict and asked that Senator Durbin, with his position on the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate’s powerful Appropriations Committee, use his power to move U.S. aid away from military funding and towards support for civic efforts like the Labor Action plan and land restitution work. We delivered articles about problems of inclusion in the peace process; the historic and fundamental conflicts over land and problems of paramilitaries; and models of countries where militarization does not dominate social policies. 

We’ll continue to push Senator Durbin’s office to change the nature of U.S. support for a militarized Colombia within a process for peace. Here from Chicago, we’ll keep working to make sure that tomorrow’s peace starts today! ‪#‎DOPA2015

————————————————————————————————————————————

La Red de Líderes Religiosos en Chicago para América Latina y nuestrxs compañerxs visitamos la oficina del Senador Durbin este lunes pasado, 18 de mayo para celebrar los Días de Oración y Acción por la Paz en Colombia. El tema de la celebración internacional este año fue “La Paz de Mañana Empieza Hoy”. Llevamos un cartel de “SHALOM”, hecho por nuestxs amigxs en el Centro de Justicia 8º Día, y exigimos al  gobierno Estadounidense que cambie su apoyo militar para empezar la implementación de Proceso de Paz en Colombia.

Discutimos los orígenes del conflicto y pedimos al Senador Durbin, con su posición en el Subcomité de Defensa en el poderoso Comité de apropiaciones del Senado, use su poder para cambiar el  apoyo militar de EEUU a Colombia a un tipo de apoyo que hace posible esfuerzos cívicos como el Plan de Acción Laboral y la restitución de las tierras a comunidades desplazadas. Llevamos con nosotrxs artículos sobre los problemas de inclusión en el proceso de paz; los conflictos históricos y fundamentales sobre la tierra y problemas de paramilitares; y modelos de países donde la militarización no domina política social.

Seguimos exigiendo que la oficina del Senador Durbin trabaje para cambiar el apoyo militar a Colombia dentro de un Proceso de Paz.  Desde Chicago, seguimos trabajando para asegurar que ¡la paz de mañana empieza hoy! #DOPA2015

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Call your representative and


ask them to support House Resolution 618, which brings attention to the situation of Afro-Colombians and calls on the U.S. to actively consult with these communities.


Click

here

to read the resolution.

Afro-Colombians are harshly affected daily by extreme poverty, racial discrimination, and ongoing violence in regions with large Afro-descendant populations. Whether they are “caught in the crossfire” or specifically targeted, Afro-Colombians are often forced to leave their communities and ancestral lands behind. As a result, Afro-Colombians now constitute 40 percent of Colombia ‘s 3.8 million internally displaced. Meanwhile, aerial spraying is destroying many of the food crops traditionally grown by Afro-Colombians, leading to further displacement and insecurity.



The resolution, which was introduced by Rep. Donald Payne during the August recess, calls on the Colombian government to combat racial discrimination and protect Afro-Colombians from human rights violations. H. Res. 618 also rightly urges the U.S. and Colombian governments to consult with Afro-Colombians while developing policies that will affect their communities.



Take Action!


See below for a list of Illinois Representatives, Foreign Policy staffers, and their contact information. Also, if you don’t know who your Representative is go to

Home



and type in your zip code to find out.

The Congressional Switchboard Number is 202-224-3121.


When you call, ask to speak with the foreign policy aide

. If he or she is unavailable, please leave the following message on his or her



voicemail:




“My name is _____. I live in ( city neighorhood or town ). I am calling to ask Rep. _________ to support House Resolution 618 to





bring attention to the situation of Afro-Colombians and call on the U.S. to actively consult with these communities.




It urges the Colombian government to do their part to combat all forms of racial discrimination and attacks against Afro-Colombians, and to work with Afro-Colombian communities to develop viable social and development programs. It sends the message the United States is concerned about the human, cultural and territorial rights of Afro-Colombians gravely affected by the armed conflict.




Will Rep. ­­________ cosponsor H. Res 618 to combat





racial discrimination in Colombia and protect Afro-Colombians from human rights violations



?”

Only three Illinois Representatives

(

Democrats


Bobby Rush, Danny Davis and Phil Hare

)

have co-sponsored H. Res. 618 to support Afro-Colombians as they strive for dignity and security, while

Democratic Reps. Dan Lipinski, Jan Schakowsky

and

Melissa Bean,

and

Republican Congressmen Donald Manzullo

and

Peter Roskam

have all committed to looking at the Resolution. Please urge your Representative – along with others who have yet to respond – to support this important Resolution protecting Afro-Colombians from the vicious cycle of discrimination and violence.




Calls to Rep. Donald Manzullo in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs are especially important!


Please let us know if you hear back, or for more information, contact:

Danielle E. Wegman, CRLN Public Policy Coordinator,

dwegman@crln.org

, 773-293-2964




Illinois






Representatives




Bobby Rush (D-



1

st


)



-Speak with John Marshall,

202-225-4372



Jesse Jackson (D-



2

nd


) ­



-Speak with Charles Dujon

, 202-225-0773



Dan Lipinski (D-



3

rd


)



-Speak with Keith Devereaux,

202-225-5701



Luis Gutierrez (D-4

th

)




Speak with Greg Staff

, 202-225-8203



Rahm Emanuel (D –



5

th


)



-Speak with Luis Jimenez,

202-225-4061



Peter Roskam (R



-6

th


)




Speak with Vicky Sanville,

202-225-4561



Danny Davis (D



-7

th


)



-Speak with Charles Brown,

202-225-5006



Melissa Bean (D-8

th

)



-Speak with JD Grom,

202-225-3711



Jan Schakowsky (D-9

th

)



-Speak with Megan Garcia

, 202-225-2111



Mark Kirk (R-10

th

)



-Speak with Richard Goldberg,

202-225-4835



Jerry Weller (R-11

th

)



-Speak with Alan Tennille,

202-225-3635



Jerry Costello (D-12

th

)



-Speak with Dan McCarthy,

202-225-5661



Judy Biggert (R-13

th

)



-Speak with Paul Doucette

, 202-225-3515



Dennis Hastert (R-14

th

)



-Speak with Paul Sorenson,

202-225-2976



Timothy Johnson (R-15

th

)



-Speak with Jen Mascho,

202-225-2371



Donald Manzullo (R-16

th

)



-Speak with Nien Su,

202-225-5676



Phil Hare (D-17

th

)



-Speak with Kemi Jemilohun,





202-225-5905



Ray LaHood (R-18

th

)



-Speak with Erin Reif,

202-225-6201



John Shimkus (R-19

th

)



-Speak with Greta Hanson,

202-225-5271

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The grueling, decades long conflict in Colombia between the government, right-wing paramilitary groups, and leftist rebels may be coming to an end in the coming months. Over the last several years, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (also known as FARC) reached an agreement


with the Colombian government


on a peace accord that could end the aging war. The talks have included the topics of the political participation of the FARC, drug-trafficking, the fundamental issue of the distribution and ownership of land in Colombia, the rights of victims and the conditions for insurgents to turn in their weapons.

The FARC, just one of many rebel groups, has been in conflict with both government military forces as well as with paramilitary groups, such as the United Self-Defense Force of Colombia (called AUC, the umbrella name for a collection of paramilitary groups). The AUC, formed in 1997, has garnished a reputation for drug-trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion in their many human rights violations. Although 30,000 members of AUC were supposedly demobilized by the government between 2003 and 2006, many AUC members formed successor paramilitary groups under different titles. Two of the groups most prevalent are the Aguilas Negras and the Rastrojos. Their power has largely stemmed from their misty relationships with Colombian military and political circles. While their paramilitary status is not so prevalent anymore, they still remain active in the drug-trafficking community. As


Thomas Shannon


, Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of State puts it, “I wouldn’t call them paramilitary groups. I would call them drug-trafficking organizations or weapons-trafficking organizations or criminal organizations.”

In addition to FARC and the AUC, groups involved include the National Liberation Army (ELN),


a marxist group spurred in 1965


by the ideologies of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. When peace talks between FARC and the government began in 2012,


the ELN showed interest in some forms of negotiations


, though they were swiftly turned down. Since the progression of the talks with FARC, however, President Juan Manual Santos has reached out, saying that the government is “ready to talk” with the ELN, and hopes to begin peace talks with them as soon as possible.

For the time being though, the peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government are going swimmingly. Many critics of both sides, however, are doubtful, even as the accord comes to some form of conclusion, as the three previous negotiations between FARC and the state have


resulted in failure.


“We’ve never been so close to an agreement before,” said Santos on Twitter. The agreement, formulated after three years of working with the government, the rebels, and some of their victims, creates a truth commission to clarify what happened in the war and promises to search for thousands of missing people, identify their remains and return them.

The agreement sets in place special courts that will try former combatants for their crimes. This includes FARC rebels

and

government soldiers, demonstrating both sides’ willingness to find peace.


The courts would reduce the sentencing of those who admit guilt and aide the peace-seeking process


, but will deny amnesty for anyone found guilty of crimes against humanity. It also attempts to ensure those hurt by the war will not be victimized again. Alan Jara, who was held hostage by FARC for over seven years was shocked, but delighted to see his former captors working peacefully with the state for once. “It is the people who haven’t suffered directly [that are] the ones who are least willing to accept a peace deal,” says Jara. “We who lived it are more accepting.” The victims, although cautiously open to the agreement, have long demanded truth and reparations, rightfully so, and it seems that they may get it


with the involvement of the United Nations Security Council, who was voluntarily brought in by the negotiating parties.


The


tripartite system


will have UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon make recommendations as to the operational details of the mission, which is hoped to reach a final agreement by March 23rd.

With UNSC involvement, FARC cooperation, and government compliance, it seems that the world’s longest-running war may be coming to an end. Until the issue of illegally armed groups is resolved, however, peace will not be possible within the local communities and the violence they face from these  groups. Also, as with many political issues that traverse a number of political, social, and economic demographics, it is critical to involve as many third-party actors not actively siding with either the government or the FARC in the implementation of the peace accords as possible: actors such as Colombian and international NGO’s, and the UN, and religious organizations. A more stabilized peace will not be possible in Colombia without a combined effort from those previously left out of the peace talks.

Written by Luke Burrows (CRLN Intern)
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Guns and Fumigation

U.S. policy toward Colombia relies on massive military aid and harmful chemical fumigation.  Colombian religious and human rights leaders have urged an end to U.S. military aid, saying it only fuels violence and increases human rights violations. They also say U.S.-funded fumigation of coca poisons people, food crops, land, and water.  Both military aid and fumigation displace entire communities – harming indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and rural campesino communities the most severely.  Despite this call, Congress continues to fund new military aid to Colombia with little or no debate.

Delegations

In response to all of this, CRLN has invited a dozen religious and human rights leaders to Chicago from Colombia over the last six years to meet with CRLN members, the media, and Congressional staffers.  In 2001, CRLN organized 12 of its members to participate in the historic Witness for Peace delegation of 100 U.S. citizens to Colombia to investigate the impact of the U.S. $1.3 billion “Plan Colombia”.  In 2003, CRLN also organized 8 African American leaders from Chicago to participate in a special Witness for Peace delegation to visit Afro-Colombian communities under siege.   In 2006, CRLN organized a 10-members delegation from the Chicago Presbytery for the 150th Anniversary of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, a vital leader of ecumenical peace and human rights advocacy. To learn more about CRLN Delegations,
click here.

Advocating for Human Rights and Developmental Aid



Each year prior to key votes, CRLN members appeal to Congress for the protection of human rights, the removal of military and fumigation funds in the Foreign Aid Appropriation bill, and a reduction of U.S. troops & contractors deployed in Colombia.  Each week, CRLN interns and volunteers draft and fax letters on CRLN letterhead to government and military officials in Colombia responding to human rights urgent action alerts.

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NOTICIA:

Después de unos días cuando comunidades Afro-Colombianas ocuparon la Panamericana en el Norte de Cauca, y después de sostener ataques de gas lacrimógeno y balas de goma por parte de las fuerzas de seguridad, oficiales locales y federales comenzaron a negociar con las comunidades. Afro-Colombianxs organizadxs insisten que sus territorios sean reconocidos y respetados ahora y durante la implementación de los Acuerdos de Paz. Mientras negocian, muchos de los líderes Afro-Colombianos están recibiendo amenazas por actores paramilitares. CRLN y muchos otros demandan que estos paramilitares sean desmobilizados si el Proceso de Paz en realidad llevará paz al país.


Haga click aquí para apoyar la expansión del Proceso de Paz

entre el estado Colombiano y los guerilleros ELN. Estaremos en comunicación continua con más oportunidades de acción y mientras tanto,

haga click aquí para una oportunidad de ir a una delegación

enfocada en lo que está pasando en Colombia en este momento clave de la historia del país.

—————————

De 4/27/2016: La semana pasada, CRLN estuvo en Washington DC, hablando con miembros del Congreso de Illinois pidiendo que apoyen una Comisión Étnica en las negociaciones de paz de Colombia en Havana, Cuba. Ahora,

2,000 Afrocolombianxs están bloqueando la Panamericana en Cauca

exigiendo respeto para sus territorios ancestrales según Ley 70 & que sus comunidades y pueblos Indígenas tengan un lugar en la mesa de negociación para terminar con una guerra que les ha afectado desproporcionadamente mas:

Lxs manifestantes piden diálogos con el estado Colombianx para hacer posible esta Comisión Étnica representando gente Afrocolombiana y pueblos Indígenas.


En vez de diálogos, están atacados con gas lacrimógeno y balas de goma.



¿Qué puedo hacer?




  1. Llame



    su miembro del Congreso


    y pida que: “contacte el Departamento del Estado para urgir un fin inmediato a las agresiones contra las manifestaciones pacíficas de Afrocolombianxs en Cauca. En vez de atacar, el estado Colombiano debe de dialogar con estas comunidades porque diálogo, no violencia, crea paz. Por favor exprese su apoyo para voces Afrocolomianas e Indígenas en la mesa de negociación de paz por una Comisión Étnica.”
  2. Mandar mensajes de Twitter a Presidente Santos: “.

    @JuanManSantos, @carmeninesVicen Nos preocupa mucho: reportes q niños Afrocolombianos están afecatdox por acciones de ESMAD en Cauca!”


  3. Done para apoyar a los esfuerzos de las comunidades Afrocolombianas organizadas


    para exigir respeto a sus territorios y un lugar en la mesa de necociación.




¿Cómo puedo ver noticias de la situación?




Sigue la página de Facebook de CRLN


y vea el


sitio de la Red de Solidaridad con Afrocolombianxs


, de cual CRLN es una organización miembo.



¿Por qué es tan importante esta situación?


Comunidades Afros e Indígenas han sido afectados desproporcionadamente por cinco décadas de guerra civil, desplazadas de sus territorios ancestrales reconocidos legalmente, e invadidos por industrias extractivas y otros intereses privados. Si la gente más afectada por la violencia no tienen voz en decidir como termina la violencia, no somos optimistas de los resultados de las Negociaciones de Paz.



¿Qué ha sido la respuesta del estado Colombiano?


Hasta ahora, la respuesta es gas lacrimógeno (que mandó a tres niños al hospital), bombas de humo, y balas de goma. La gente exigen diálogo, no violencia.

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From the Fellowship of Reconciliation Website:

In July 2007, FOR and the American Friends Service Committee released a report documenting the first-person experiences of women peace activists in Colombia. “I Will Never Be Silenced: Testimonies of Hope from Colombian Woman” highlights the words and work of 13 women from throughout Colombia – rural and urban, old and young, Afro-Colombian, indigenous and mestizo, artists, religious, political, feminists. These women have tirelessly and fearlessly worked to create peace and justice.

Order your copy today!

Elizabeth Lozano explains in the report’s introduction:

“The violence faced by women is not only inflicted by the machetes, guns, and landmines of the ‘enemy.’ It is also carried out by ‘friendly’ fire, so to speak, in the woman’s daily life. This is the normalized violence exercised without the weapons of war, and manifested in abusive marital relations, implicit or explicit threats of rape, absence of education opportunities, lack of sexual education, and in the general expectation that her right place is the kitchen and the bedroom.”

“I Will Never Be Silenced” brings to readers women who endure these various forms of violence to speak about their experiences and their work to end the violence and impunity in their country.

The 40-page report is available for $6 postpaid for individual copies, or $30 for 10 copies, postpaid.


To order your copy

, please send a check to the FOR office at:

2017 Mission St, 2nd Floor

San Francisco, CA 94110

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Español aquí


Photo: Government and FARC negotiators finalize details of the Peace Accords where the Ethnic Chapter will be included

After four and a half years of preliminary and formal negotiations and 52 years of war, the Colombian state and FARC guerillas have concluded their peace negotiations and finalized the Peace Accords.

This moment is certainly historic and will mark the first experience of official peace ever experienced by many Colombians. And while we celebrate an end to the fighting between the Colombian state and FARC guerrillas, we also know that the months and years to come will be deeply challenging as real peace is hopefully established for the many sides of Colombian society, not just these two sides of the armed conflict.

CRLN first heard about the finality of the Accords on Tuesday, August 23rd, when our partners at Black Communities’ Process (PCN, their acronym in Spanish) alerted us that the agreements would be signed without the inclusion of an ‘Ethnic Chapter’. For years, African descendant and Indigenous communities have been fighting for a place at the negotiating tables and have organized themselves into an Ethnic Commission constituted by the National Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA), the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), and the High Government of Indigenous Authorities.

The Ethnic Commission is crucial to a successful and sustainable peace, because much of the peace process concerns rural land that is ancestral territory to the disproportionately African descendant and Indigenous survivors of displacement and violence.

The Ethnic Commission drafted an in-depth ‘Ethnic Chapter’ for the negotiating parties to include in their final accords that would help guarantee successful implementation of the accords in many rural, Indigenous and African-descendant territories. This Ethnic Chapter represents the concerns of organized communities most affected by the violence of the conflict and will help ensure that this final agreement complies with international and Colombian law and anti-racism agreements.

When the Ethnic Commission called for action on Tuesday morning, CRLN and coalition partners across the country responded with as much pressure as possible on Colombian and U.S. officials to include the Ethnic Chapter in the final accord language. Black and Indigenous leaders flew to Havana late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to negotiate the final version of the Ethnic Chapter. Late on Wednesday night, August 24th, we heard from Colombian partners that the ethnic chapter was included, albeit reduced from nine pages to four, in the official Colombian Peace Accords.

Due to consistent pressure, solidarity work and on the ground mobilizations by African descendant and Indigenous peoples, the Ethnic Commission has helped shape what peace will look like in their territories for the mostly Black and Indigenous survivors of violence, most of whom are women.

At CRLN, we will continue working in coalition with national and international allies until true peace is achieved in Colombia. We will continue monitoring the situation as the accords move through a plebiscite vote by the Colombian people. We’ll continue following the lead of our partners in Colombia’s Ethnic Commission, who will be monitoring the implementation of the Accords, ensuring that the Colombian state integrate the Ethnic Commission’s recommendations for peace in their communities.

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