This morning Jake and I woke early (and still tired from having dinner and too much wine with friends last night) to have breakfast at my friend, Andrea’s, apartment. Her job has been to collect Internally Displaced Person’s stories and verify them. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are people who have been forced off their land by an armed group – like the FARC, the ELN or the paramilitaries – and must migrate, usually to the slums in the biggest cities. Currently, over 10% of the Colombian population has been displaced. Andrea helps with the program run by the Colombian government, which gives IDPs three months of humanitarian assistance and tries to help them return to their homes (if in areas where the conflict has subsided).
So far, the return of IDPs has not been very successful because of ongoing violence. One of the places where people have been able to return to their homes is in San Carlos, Antioquia – one of our case study areas. We are hoping to visit San Carlos in the next month. (We will let you know what we learn soon!)
Anyways, we talked with Andrea for three hours, and she gave us a pile of books, CDs of data, and really good scrambled eggs with olives. She also said something really compelling about the status of “ex-combatants” and “victims.” She said, “Here in Colombia it is like a civil status – like being married – the only difference is you can’t get divorced.” People remain “victims” or “perpetrators” for their entire lives, and their children sometimes even remain with the stigma. Her opinion is that without forgiveness, reconciliation, and a moment in which someone is no longer either a victim or a perpetrator – but rather a civilian – there will never be peace.
Very interesting breakfast.