(Washington, D.C.) April 11, 2012 — Thousands of people are coming together this month to advocate for peace and justice in Colombia and take action through the Days of Action for Colombia. We at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA encourage you to join us in this national campaign.
With an ongoing civil conflict that has displaced more than five million people, Colombia continues to suffer from the world’s largest displacement and humanitarian crisis. More than half a million Colombians have also fled to over Colombia’s borders neighboring countries. Last year alone at least 118,000 people were newly displaced.
This conflict disproportionately displaces poor rural farming communities, Afro-Colombians, indigenous groups, and women and children, who are victimized by vying armed groups as they seek to control territory, resource-rich land, and transportation channels. In addition, Colombian farmers face the challenge of crop fumigation.
The U.S. funds the aerial fumigation of toxic chemicals over Colombian farm land in an attempt to curb the illegal drug trade, yet the fumigations indiscriminately destroy both legal and illegal crops. Colombians who have been sprayed by the chemicals have reported high incidences of miscarriages, birth defects, and fungal skin infections, as well as the death of livestock and the poisoning of drinking water.
Over the past decade, the U.S. government has sent more than $8 billion in aid to Colombia under a program called Plan Colombia. Until very recently, 80% of this aid was earmarked for arming and training the Colombian military, a troubled outfit that has been implicated in gross human rights abuses.
Jesuit Refugee Service has been working with displaced communities in Colombia since 1995. Today, 17 years later, we are still asking you to work with us for peace in Colombia. We invite you to join us,acting in solidarity with the over 5 million internally displaced people in Colombia, as well as the 500,000 Colombians who have fled the violence from the long armed conflict to neighboring countries, to ask Congress and the President to take the following actions:
• Promote a negotiated end to the conflict and a just peace;
• Prioritize funding to support displaced people, refugees, and other victims of violence;
• Stop sending military aid to Colombia that fuels war; and
• End toxic aerial spraying programs and support alternative development aid.
We ask that Congress and the President please make these changes to promote human rights, support indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and safely restore displaced people to their lands.
On April 12 through April 16, hundreds of faith communities in the U.S. and Colombia will incorporate Colombia into the weekly worship service to raise awareness of the spiraling displacement and pray for peace.
To learn how you can advocate for peace in Colombia, download the Organizer’s Packet – the PDF on this page – and see how you can bring the Days of Action for Colombia to your community. To ask questions, post photos, and connect with others hosting events in both Colombia and the U.S., be sure to visit the Facebook page by clicking here.
If you have any questions or would like other suggestions on how to bring the Days of Action for Colombia to your community, please e-mail Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Outreach Coordinator Cara Pavlak at firstname.lastname@example.org.