The Peace Community was founded against a backdrop of violence and intimidation by the army, leftist guerilla fighters and right-wing paramilitary groups. A group of around 2,100 farmers pledged themselves to non-violence; all they ask is that those around them respect their right to peace and non-involvement in the conflict under international human rights law. The community also abides by a number of shared rules: not taking up arms; not associating with or supporting armed groups; equal rights for everyone; and not carrying any drugs or alcohol.
The conflict in Colombia, which goes back six decades, has roots in social and economic structural inequality. “In Colombia there is no right to land tenure, there is practically no right to be a home-owner, no right to education, to free healthcare, or any kind of decent healthcare. Education is also very bad,” explains Jesús Emilio. “At the Peace Community we try to ensure that every family has a house, has right to land, to somewhere they can grow crops to feed themselves. Our objective is to create a different world, a different way of living, with love for children, adults and old people.”
Perversely, in exempting themselves from conflict, the community has become a target for those seeking control of their land. They have lost 261 members - men, women and children - as a result. The murders, disappearances and multiple forced displacements have so far remained unaddressed and unacknowledged by the Colombian government, yet community leaders like Jesús Emilio and Arley continue to demand justice internationally. “The paramilitaries are still acting, ever more openly, supported by different State institutions, especially the police and army,” explains Jesús Emilio. “On November 18, 2013, the paramilitaries stormed one of the Community settlements, called Arenas Altas, and they took six people, five of whom were adolescents.
This is linked to the forced disappearance of the young farmer Buenaventura Hoyos on August 31, 2014 - whose whereabouts are still unknown. The situation is critical.”
In spite of this huge instability, the community has remained firmly committed to peace and they exist in harmony with their surroundings. They cultivate a variety of crops to eat and to sell including bananas, avocados, corn, rice, beans, plantains, and, of course, cocoa beans.