RECONCILIATION | PROGRAM
AGAPE FOR COLOMBIA
PROMOTES PEACE AMONG COLOMBIANS
Our meetings generate conditions that facilitate reconciliation and promote peace among Colombians. Our gatherings provide recognition and support for victims as they struggle to rebuild their lives, and it is an opportunity for former victimizers and members of civil society to become acquainted with the complexities of the armed conflict and with the enormous physical and emotional consequences of the war for the victims.
VILLAVICENCIO, 2017, November 17th,18th and 19th
RECONCILIATION AND RECOGNIZING THE PAIN
This gathering was dedicated to one of our beloved volunteers who died after a lengthy illness. Thanks to her generosity we were able to put together this gathering.
More than 70 participants among victims, victimizers, ex-combatants, Peace Promoters and members of civil society lived together under one roof for three days in search of reconciliation and peace. Listening and being heard was the first topic on the agenda. This opened up opportunities for participants to share their experiences in small groups and they were encouraged to examine their healing paths, many of them recognizing the advances, the ups and downs and what lies ahead. Other participants provided support and recognition.
During this gathering young people victims of child recruitment presented for the first time a social-drama that they designed in order to portray the reality of life within the illegal armed groups, the battles, the stress and the fear, as well as the many challenges of reintegration to civil society. They were memorable moments of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The agenda included time for leisure and allowed people to establish meaningful bonds and contacts that continue to this day.
TOCANCIPÁ 2016, May 21st, 22nd and 23rd
RECONCILIATION AND COMMUNITY BUILDING
This gathering took place during three days in Tocancipá and counted with the presence of 61 participants. The gathering intended to facilitate the pacific co-existence among opposing groups and promote the reconciliation of Colombians after so many years at war.
Recognition of the life stories of new participants was the object of this gathering. Those who attended for the first time encountered a warm reception and acceptance by Agape members and felt at ease to share voluntarily their painful stories: ¨The guerrillas daughter¨, as she called herself, is today a young adult who grew up within the illegal armed group and knew no other life until very recently; the victim of a mine, and another victim who called his story ¨from here to there¨ felt the need to awaken an awareness in those that lived far away from the reality of war.
Through this exercise lasting new bonds were born and old ones were reinforced. As a result communication networks have provided support. An awareness that Agape is building community and helping to strengthen the social fabric was widely recognized and encouraged.
VILLAVICENCIO 2015, March 14th, 15th and 16th
"SYMBOLIC REPARATION" DEDICATED TO WOMEN VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WAR
A group of twenty women victims of sexual abuse in the context of war, contacted Agape to request a workshop conceived specifically for them. They expressed the need to be heard. They explained that they have only found consolation amongst themselves, as no one seems to be able to hear them or offer some comfort. They want to find their voices with regards to the pain and suffering inflicted upon them and ask for the presence of men and other members of civil society. Agape accepted this challenge, designed and organized a three day workshop for them that included, at their request, other victims, male and female, and members of civil society.
In order to address this delicate subject, preliminary interviews were done in order to select the women that were emotionally ready to participate in this workshop. Furthermore, Agape members were selected and trained as "angels" so that they could provide individual emotional support (do no harm) to each of the victims.
Members of civil society presented symbolic gifts with the intention of contributing to the healing of wounds. These courageous women in symbolic ways made allusion to the ordeals that they have been through, acknowledged the wounds as well as the ways in which they have survived and appreciated the recognition received during the workshop.
A male participant presented a symbolic response and a sincere apology on behalf of all offending men and asked for forgiveness and reconciliation. A total of 65 participants contributed to this event.
"…. I want to ask for forgiveness for my cowardly silence, I want to ask for forgiveness for the indifferent silence of many, I want to ask forgiveness for the blood stain that we have left over the earth and over our lives …."
VILLAVICENCIO 2013, November 2nd, 3rd and 4th
SUPPORT FOR POLICEMEN VICTIMS OF KIDNAPPING
"PEACE IS EVERYONE´S RESPONSIBILITY"
Agape received a request to organize a Reconciliation workshop by ten members of the police force who were kidnapped and kept in captivity in the Amazonian jungle for up to fourteen years. These policemen wanted to have the opportunity to meet former child-soldiers in order to make peace with their young captors, some of them were their guards during captivity.
The workshop started with an emotional and unexpected gesture by one of the young former combatants who had accepted to take part in this experience. The participants were gathered in a circle as the young man walked to the middle and knelt down explaining that he needed to ask for forgiveness as this was the reason for his presence at the workshop. The room was filled with emotion as youth all the participants embrace one another as a sign of reconciliation.
Policemen and youth shared their painful experiences either during their years captivity or during their recruitment as children. The policemen shared the challenges they had to face while they were locked up and chained to one another for years and all shared the difficulties of coexistence under painful circumstances and constant danger. Policemen as well as youth talked about the difficulties of reintegration to their families and urban life.
These group brought to life the realities of war for those who had never heard or experienced the horrors of war. All the participants in different ways were united around the pain and the recognition of the many losses incurred, and all the barriers that separated participants disappeared in a spontaneous and emotional experience of reconciliation and forgiveness. Leisure activities such as sports, music and dance accompanied this intense weekend. The results of this gathering were and are particularly fruitful as it contributed to the creation of bonds that persist to this day.
YANACONAS, Cali 2012, November 10th,11th and 12th
LIFE IN THE MIDST OF CONFLICT
With the theme “life in the midst of conflict” participants explored the difficulties that arise while trying to learn to trust again once you have suffered the recruitment of your children.
One of these families and some of the former child soldiers presented to us with courage the realities of the stigma and the discrimination attached to their condition and the challenges encountered in the path of reintegration.
On the theme of co-existence or living in community, one member of the police force that was kidnapped for fourteen years and lived in the Amazonian jungle during captivity, shared with us the reality of this painful experience and at the end extended his hand to the former child-soldiers as a sign of reconciliation. This gesture had great emotional impact in the youth who since having demobilized had never personally encountered victims of the war.
At the end of the experience, the emotional impact on those present became evident: the path from mistrust and resentment towards acceptance, reconciliation and forgiveness was recognized and expressed:
"The magic of the experience are the words used to express what is experienced during these gatherings. It is not an objective but a subjective experience. Everyone goes through it differently but in all cases, it has something to do with personal transformation, connection with the other, spirituality, emotions, empathy and solidarity towards the pain of the other"
ARMENIA 2012, March 17th, 18th, and 19th
IN SEARCH OF RECONCILIATION
This was our first reconciliation gathering that took place in the midst of armed conflict. Former child-soldiers, victims of kidnapping, displacement, refugees and members of civil society got together under the same roof to share their war experiences. This was the first time that participants met face to face with former members of the illegal armed groups and who participated in acts of war.
Through and initial period of fear, mistrust and confrontation, the sharing of the painful experiences on the part of the former child soldiers, the recognition of the pain and suffering inflicted on the victims and the support provided amongst participants, meaningful relationships were established. Furthermore, through symbolic acts of reparation, together with a great desire for peace, a formal engagement towards the creation of other reconciliation spaces was made, and it is in this way Agape’s reconciliation workshops were born.
"No one could have anticipated the impact that these meetings would have in our lives once the former child soldiers shared their stories and their reasons to join armed groups. Through their testimonies, attitudes and their need for forgiveness they became agents in the reconciliation of other victims of the war in Colombia."
PEACE PROMOTERS | PROGRAM
AGAPE FOR COLOMBIA
WE ARE SURVIVORS AND PEACE PROMOTERS
Since 2015 Agape has been implementing a program for Peace Promoters that originated from the former victims that have participated in many of Agape´s activities. They consider that they have overcome the condition of victim-hood, have recovered for the most part, from their wounds and have built new lives.
Together with this group, Agape volunteers explored the healing process undergone by the former victims and as result, they designed and presented what we have called in Spanish "sociodramas" or social-dramas that illustrate the challenges and struggles to heal, undergone by victims of the war.
Agape has been presenting these "sociodramas" in several venues of the public and private sector and in different regions of the country. These presentations have illustrated the reality of the lives of victims of the war and have had a significant impact in their audiences.
BOGOTÁ 2017, May 12th and November 16th
COMMUNITY BUILDING AWARENESS WORKSHOP FOR CIVIL SOCIETY GIMNASIO FEMENINO
This private school located in Bogota, within its Historic Memory curriculum, had an interest in our Peace Promoters program and organized presentations for students, parents, teachers and administrators. For many of the members in the audience this was the first time that they had the opportunity to get to know the reality of the war and interact with those most affected that came from different regions of the country.
GUAYMARAL 2016, September 18th
AWARENESS WORKSHOP FOR CIVIL SOCIETY PEACE PROMOTERS IN DAIVA
Forty five Peace Promoters members of Agape and who arrived from different parts of the country presented for the first time in the city of Bogota the history and the program of Agape as well as their socio-dramas. These were directed to an audience of more than a 100 members of civil society who for the most part have not been in touch with the reality of the war. This activity allowed survivors and Peace Promoters to present their war related experiences and received recognition for their courage in their healing path.
THE ALPINE CLIMBER:
A refugee living in Canada, in a symbolic manner represents the challenges faced in order to reach the top and this represents the healing path of war victims.
A guerrilla man physically aggresses a woman. In a symbolic manner she expresses her pain, anger and wish to revenge. Through her spiritual life she invites forgiveness and reconciliation and her aggressor finds forgiveness.
A character draws a picture on a board. It is a sickly bush while another character draws a healthy and leafy tree. A third character, sitting in a luxurious chair between the two characters, is watching herself in the mirror as she polishes her nails and checks her hair do. The first character turns towards the audience and identifies herself as a victim of the armed conflict, the second character represents a survivor, who has overcome victimhood and the third is a member of civil society, oblivious to the reality around her.
Former child soldiers, adult ex-combatants and recently liberated policemen victims of kidnapping, get together in this social drama to present to us their stories. In the end the policeman presents his jailer during six years. Today they are friends.
Mothers that have lost their children and have never known their whereabouts, present to us their endless wander in search of their remains.
Mother and daughter present their wanderings in search of a stable home and represent their encounter with Agape and the path they have followed towards reconciliation.
I AM A CHILD SOLDIER:
Portray the reality of life within the illegal armed groups, the battles, the stress and the fear, as well as the many challenges of reintegration to civil society. There are memorable moments of reconciliation and forgiveness.
There was an open conversation among members of the audience and victims and the experience generated positive comments regarding the importance of bringing together different sector of society under the same roof in order in search of reconciliation and peace.
TOCANCIPÁ, Cali 2016, September 16th,17th and 18th
FROM VICTIM/VICTIMIZER TO PEACE PROMOTER
Agape has been collecting the lessons learnt from the victims and their healing paths through its more than 10 years of operation. An effort was made to present this knowledge and understanding to the victims themselves, through two workshops, in order to ascertain the veracity and accuracy of the lessons learnt.
The first workshop was called ¨The path from victim to survivor¨ and the second one ¨From victim to Peace promoter¨. Given the intensity of themes to be dealt participants were former child-soldiers and members of the Agape’s core group. This group provided support and recognition and its members help to generate trust. The young ex-combatants expressed the need to deal with issues of responsibility and even guilt regarding the actions committed during recruitment, forgetting their condition as victims.
Courageous efforts were observed on the part of these youngsters in their search for forgiveness from victims as well as self-forgiveness. This aspect of the healing process tends to be ignored given the emotional charge that in can generate. Solid trust, professional assistance and receptive environment facilitated the process. As a result appreciation and signs of relief were observed and expressed by the participants in this exercise.
VILLAVICENCIO 2015, November from 2nd to 24th
UNDERSTANDING PEACE PROMOTERS "WE ARE SURVIVORS"
During our last gathering, a group of victims who are regular participants in Agape activities, informed us that they have overcome the condition of victimhood, have recovered, for the most part, from their wounds and have built new lives.
In an effort to understand this healing process Agape´s volunteers organized an extended program of four weeks in the town of Villavicencio and met many of the Agape’s participants, mostly victims, coming from different regions of the country as well as refugees coming from Canada in order to participate in this exercise.
Joint reflection on these processes helped all of us, victims, former victims, victimizers and members of civil society, to understand the difficulties, challenges and accomplishments that victims have to overcome in order to heal. Many mentioned the importance of recognition, forgiveness, and reconciliation in the process. No longer victims, they identify themselves as survivors.
After the group arrived to this conclusion, one of the former victims, a refugee living in Canada, got up and pretended to be an Alpine climber, presenting to us the challenges of mountain climbing. Once she arrived to the top of the imagined mountain, she turned to her audience and explained that this was her symbolic way of portraying her experience. Five more social-dramas were presented that day and these became part of the Peace Promoters Program.
These social-dramas conceived and designed by the Peace Promoters have been presented to different audiences across the country and have had significant impact particularly for members of civil society that are far away from the reality of the war and its victims.
AGAPE FOR COLOMBIA
VILLAVICENCIO, 2017, December 20th
A BRIGHT DAY IN VILLABO CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
As Christmas approaches, Agape wants to do something new: reunite families and build unforgettable memories through a meaningful Christmas activity. With this in mind Agape united efforts with Alianza por las Sonrisas, a program of Social Responsibility of the Showplace enterprise dedicated to recreation and early education of children of families in Bogota.
The best Christmas present, according to the 15 volunteers that put together the show, was the presentation that took place after a succulent dinner and the arrival of Santa, filled with dolls and soccer balls as well as pillow for the adults.
One of the policemen that was the victim of kidnapping by FARC for more than 10 years, arrived with his guard in captivity for 3 years. Their present was to present another face of a war, where we are all victims. Today in an example of resilience and reconciliation, today they work together and share and affection for each other.
This was lesson on reconciliation that the volunteers will never forget. In the same way as the children and their families, for the first time in their lives the shared a magical Christmas, with food, presents and the warmth offered by the members of Agape. Today they are all one family.
Members of this group have joined Agape and continue to work in order to support our future activities.
“For me, it was a sad day, as I realized that as a child I never had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas and get presents, but it was also a happy day because hundreds of children had the opportunity, that I never had, to participate in a joyful Christmas celebration”
VILLAVICENCIO 2014, May 31st, June 1st and 2nd
SUPPORT FOR COUPLES THAT SUFFERED SEPARATION THROUGH KIDNAPPING OF A SPOUSE
"TOGETHER AGAIN, THE PATH"
The same policemen victims of the war, requested a workshop oriented towards their couples. Agape designed a workshop keeping in mind the particular circumstances of these families. Fathers and husbands returning home after 13 years, to find adolescent and adult sons and daughters they did not know and wives that had evolved in different directions.
In an original and respectful manner communication was facilitated among two separate groups that operated in the presence of members of civil society that accompanied the experience. One group was composed of victims that were kidnapped by the illegal forces for many years and the other group was made up of their spouses. A neutral messenger was designated to transfer the messages from one group to the other. In this way all the kidnapped and their spouses became aware the needs, desires and wishes of all concerned. Throughout the exercise the realities and tragic consequences of kidnapping were presented to all and support strategies were explored.
The gathering also offered time for leisure during which participants enjoyed the facilities, played sports and relaxed.
HUELLAS, CALOTO, Cauca 2013, October 12th, 13th, 14th,
GRIEF SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH OF THE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY NASA-PAEZ
The NASA indigenous community has been hard hit by the ravages of war partly due to their geographical location in the midst of a traffic corridor for the drug market access to the Pacific Ocean. The community is fairly isolated and not much support has been made accessible to them. Agape was approached by some of the elders in requesting support for their young people who have lost mothers, fathers or siblings.
The grief workshop and the symbolic as well as ludic activities allowed the children to recognize and express their losses. The use of colors in order to express feelings proved to be a very useful strategy. These profoundly affected children took advantage of the opportunity and with the support of the participants were able to share their grief in different ways.
Members of civil society were able to express support and recognition of their pain through messages posted in what we called “The healing mural”. Ice-breakers, music and exercises as well as soccer games were appreciated and participation was enthusiastic. Each participant had the opportunity to build a ¨dream catcher¨ capable of containing the nightmares of its owner during sleep and releasing them with the morning sun, while conserving the pleasant dreams in its wings. The dreamcatcher is a powerful tool according to indigenous tradition. Sports, music and dance were included in the agenda.
At the end the children were quite comfortable and expressed their surprise and appreciation because strangers coming from faraway places cared and were motivated to provide support to them. These young people are also part of the Agape family.
SUPPORT FOR INCOME
Agape has provided financial support to the establishment of small business ventures of participants of our reconciliation programs.
SUPPORT FOR EDUCATIONAL PROJECTS
Agape has bought computers, paid school fees and implements that contribute towards educational progress of our participants.
CRISIS PREVENTION FUND
Agape has facilitated funds in order to respond to unforeseen and critical circumstances that have risen in some of our participants’ lives. We have contributed funds for health treatments, transportation in situations of risk and have covered the costs of rents and debts in critical situations, on a case by case basis.