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Hopes for peace

Christian Aid - UK - Wed, 17 Oct 2012 10:06 GMT
Author: Christian Aid
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As we approach the beginning of peace talks between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, we would like to invite the viewer to go beyond words like ‘war’ and ‘victims’ and see for themselves the people, landscapes and locations where the 50-year old conflict takes place and the faces of those affected. Christian Aid has been working in Colombia since the 80’s, strengthening civil society and advocating on behalf of communities fighting for their rights to land, food and justice.  Christian Aid stands hopeful in the face of the Peace stalks starting this week in Oslo

Credit: Christian Aid/Paul Hackett

The conflict in Colombia happens predominantly in remote and isolated places like this one, in rural areas where the Army, guerrillas and paramilitaries fight for control over territories abundant in natural resources. 80% of human rights violations in the last 10 years have occurred in mining and energy producing regions.

Credit: Christian Aid/Isabel Ortigosa

Colombia has the highest number of internally displaced people in the world at an estimated 5.2 million. Afro-Colombians along with indigenous people are some of the most marginalised communities and most affected by the conflict.

According to the UN High Commissioner’s Office, the Army along with paramilitary and guerrilla groups have been responsible for gross violations of human rights – including displacement and killing of civilians. Nearly 3,800 civilians have been injured and or killed by landmines since 1990.

Credit: Christian Aid/Isabel Ortigosa

Many women and young children have been caught in the crossfire, witnessed heinous crimes or fled in terror during the decades-old conflict, scars which can last a lifetime. In 2011, over 100,000 people were reported as newly displaced.

Credit: Christian Aid/Cathy Bouley

How does displacement feel like? Fear, the loss of a way of life, despair for the future and hopelessness from the lack of justice. How does it look like?  A makeshift home, abandoned, the inability to grow food or make a living.

Credit: Christian Aid/Olivia McDonald

Many have lost their sons and daughters during the conflict.  Some of the victims have been found in mass graves, others disappear. Colombia’s National Search Commission for Disappeared People estimates that over 61,000 people have been “disappeared” – made to vanish without a trace – during the course of the country’s internal conflict.

Credit: Christian Aid/Paul Hackett

Caught in the middle of the conflict farmers who were once self-sufficient find themselves unable to feed themselves or their families. According to Accion Social, a government body, people have been dispossessed of 6.8 hectares of land, this is slightly higher than the total amount of arable land in the UK.

Credit: Christian Aid/Paul Hackett

The Army, the FARC guerrillas and other rebel groups have targeted civilians, paramilitary groups are responsible for massacres, torture and rape. The paramilitary groups are estimated to have around 6,000 members.

Credit: Christian Aid/Paul Hackett

Displaced, these children along with hundreds of others have left the countryside and now live in one of the world’s biggest slums in the capital Bogota.

Credit: Christian Aid/Paul Hackett

Displaced children fleeing with their families arrive in the big cities, their schooling interrupted or altogether abandoned, instead they help their parents as recyclers, selling whatever they can or begging.

Credit: Christian Aid/Paul Hackett

Altos de Cazuca, a slum area in the outskirts of the capital Bogota, is one of the areas receiving large numbers of people who have fled their homes due to the violence.

Credit: Christian Aid/Paul Hackett

Around 50 per cent of Colombia’s displaced population are children. Many have grown up in fear and hoping for peace. The stones symbolise the graves of men and women who have disappeared.

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