You’d be forgiven for thinking that four million people forced out of their homes, up to 30,000 “disappeared” and 6,000 maimed by landmines would keep the crisis in Colombia on the front pages. Yet the story of Colombia’s 40 years of conflict and the price people like Luz Mila and her family have paid is now rarely reported.
Luz Mila struggles through tears to tell her story. It is one of terror, suffering and loss: “ The second time the heavily-armed woman guerrilla told us to leave, I asked what about our farm, our animals? She told me that I could replace my animals, but not my children. I knew then there would be no third warning. We would be killed.”
Luz had already survived both the guerrillas and the army terrorising her family inside their house. Luz and her three children fled to a shantytown house of bamboo, mud and plastic with an outside bathroom and kitchen. “I t is a tragedy that Colombia has come to this,” she said.
Each September, “Peace Week” commemorates the victims of the conflict and boosts commitment to ending it through dialogue. This year, a campaign called “Peace is Possible” had churches worldwide standing in solidarity with Luz and her countrymen and women, calling for truth, justice and reparation.
The Caritas Internationalis Colombia Working Group took these demands to the Norwegian government in Oslo, asking it to reject a free trade agreement and impress on the government in Bogotá that the outside world is watching with disapproval.
Luz Mila says she is one of the lucky ones. She now has a small but steady income from a job as a metal worker, after receiving training and start-up equipment from Caritas Colombia. “Since the business began, I feel safe and full of hope that my life will keep improving. I don’t know the people who give the money for this help, but I thank them from my heart for helping me to find some peace.”