The AVP program in Colombia is PLA’s longest-running program and has included five regions: Bogotá/Central, Atlantic coast, Northeast, Occident and Medellín. From 2006 to 2016, AVP Colombia completed over 300 workshops, impacting more than 2,500 participants. Youth have been a priority population for AVP Colombia as well as victims of the armed violence, 75% of whom are women. Workshops continue with communities in indigenous and Afro-Colombian territories located in the coastal and southwestern regions rich in natural resources.
With the signing of the Peace Accords in 2016 ending the 52-year armed conflict, Colombia faces new challenges and opportunities. One challenge is reintegrating the newly demobilized FARC guerilla army personnel and persons involved in paramilitary activities.
In 2016 workshops began in the Nasa indigenous community in Caldono, Cauca, a former Red Zone of armed conflict. The local sponsor was the Pentecostal Church whose pacifist pastor serves on the municipal reconciliation committee. Participants included a former guerilla and a former military soldier. One striking feature of the workshop was participants’ emphasis on the relationship between peace at home and peace in the country with profound reflections on the way violence is passed from one generation to another within families and communities. Work with victims and victimizers is very important because they are the ones who will generate peace, said Gladys Cedeño.
AVP Colombia does workshops in Granada, Antioquia, a city that suffered greatly due to its strategic placement as a FARC stronghold in the early 2000s. The paramilitary went in and ‘fumigated’ the town, killing everyone in sight including old couples, children…everyone, said Franciscan Sister Adela. The violence prompted many survivors to migrate, but for those who remain, trauma still pervades many aspects of life. Children are showing signs of the terror of War. AVP workshops have helped ease the pain of families and survivors who saw parents, sisters, or brothers killed. Granada represents one town of the many who have suffered similar violence where AVP Facilitators have helped create a space where individual participants can heal deep personal and communal wounds.