Munich, Germany—An Austrian peace activist who oversaw violence-free zones in Colombia was the speaker at an afternoon event presented by UPF-Munich.
Laetitia S., a peace activist and student from Salzburg, Austria, who has worked with the Austrian branch of the well-known International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), gave an account of her work in the South American country.
The meeting on November 18, 2017, started with the showing of a video of interviews with people from a village that had been oppressed by violent strife.
Ms. S. lived for about one year in different Colombian communities, above all in rural areas, where along with other activists, she worked as a so-called protection supporter. These communities until recently had been coerced into involvement with armed groups, sometimes leading to fatalities.
With the support of the Austrian branch of IFOR, violence-free zones were established where the local people could initiate various agricultural, educational or social projects. And these projects gained international recognition by the installation of international, of course unarmed, protection supporters who also kept protocols and reported what was going on.
Ms. S. had to make her way by bus, horse and sometimes boat to the most remote areas and villages which were often inaccessible by road.
The listeners could feel her deep love for this country and its conflict-burdened people and her investment to bring a lasting peace. They gained a deep respect for the amazing courage that such work repeatedly demanded.
The establishment of peace requires not only involvement from the big political stage but also, above all, people and NGOs who are willing to make an ongoing commitment with their love, willingness to sacrifice and strong moral values. Just as international concerns often bring their problems to Colombia, so international support is needed to solve those issues and their repercussions.
Ms. S. gratefully received donations from the audience for her work. Discussions and questions continued over refreshments.