Ana Teresa Bernal – Colombia

Linked with our presentation of REDEPAZ – Colombia.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “Peace is not a Colombian invention. It is a flag of all humanity.”

She works for the Red Nacional de Iniciativas por la Paz y contra la Guerra (Redepaz).

Ana Teresa Bernal – Colombia

”When Ana Teresa Bernal was an adolescent, she distributed food to children living on the streets. As a young woman, she continued her social work and created a movement called ‘Life’. Later, as a woman, she founded REDEPAZ, the National Network of Citizen Initiatives against War. Her personal fight is against war. She dreams of a Colombia at peace. She has been working, day after day, for more than two decades to achieve this. “I believe that this is our country and that we have to defend life. It was formed in 1993 as the citizens’ answer to the president of Colombia at that time, César Gaviria. He proposed what was called ‘an integral war’. We said that what the country needed was ‘integral peace’. In 1996, REDEPAZ organized what became known as the ‘Mandate against Violence’. They asked boys and girls from more than a hundred municipalities all over Colombia to choose, from twelve fundamental rights, the one they considered to be the most important. Then, 2.700,000 children voted for the right to peace. Their voices were heard all over the country. One year later, REDEPAZ organized a new vote, when more than 10 million adult Colombians called for the same thing. Each year in Colombia, approximately 30,000 people die. According to the United Nations, more than 1 million inhabitants have been displaced by the war and thousands have been killed or remain missing. (Read all this on this 1000peacewomen page).

In the past, negotiations and general discussion of the Colombian conflict have excluded representatives of civil society, particularly members of youth, women’s, indigenous peoples’ and farmers groups. Instead they have been limited to representatives of the more powerful sub-sectors, such as unions, universities, and the different religious sectors.

By creating a network that provides a vehicle to engage diverse actors of the citizen sector in the movement for peace, Ana Teresa is working to achieve an “integral” or complete peace in Colombia where citizens coexist harmoniously in an atmosphere of social and economic justice, cultural democracy and respect for human rights, life and diversity. Instead of viewing peace as an absence of conflict, Ana Teresa is redefining peace as a way of approaching conflicts differently, where dialogue, non-violent action and negotiation are fundamental components … Another one of the main activities Ana Teresa is currently promoting, with the support of the UN, is the promotion of peace territories. These are towns or municipalities that declare themselves to be peaceful areas and work together to create a united force to keep the armed conflict from entering. All members of the community must agree to refrain from the use of violence of any kind and remain neutral from any of the armed groups. The focus on consensus is aimed at avoiding any internal divisions within the towns and breaches of solidarity which could endanger the community as a whole by inviting in armed groups. Because of the great challenge of achieving community consensus, REDEPAZ works extensively with these communities and to organize and help them come up with ways to strengthen their stance on peace. Community members come together and create a symbol and or logo which represents their determination to maintain a place of non-violence. They place stickers with these symbols throughout their towns, in windows, on cars, and buildings, confirming their unity of commitment to peace. Ana Teresa is working to encourage more communities to take on this challenge, demonstrating the positive results that cities such as Uraba have had using these techniques. Finally, Ana Teresa is working on a general education campaign for peace through dissemination of literature and workshops. This education is largely based on using successful examples of non-violent solutions. The education also involves promoting a new language, which derives from testimonies of actual experience. She has begun conducting workshops on peace where there is reflection of past activities in favor of peace and discussion on what needs to happen in order to promote a pedagogy of peace. The workshops also have a training component, so that attendees can replicate the sessions in their own regions, thereby becoming constructors and multipliers of peace themselves. (Read the rest of this long resentation on Ashoka Fellow Profile).

links:

Pictures of the Alliance for Conflict Transformation;

Goethe-Institut Bogota;

about Humanitarian Agreement;

conciliation resources;

Latin American Working Group.

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