In enemy territory: the resistance of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
"In enemy territory" is a documentary by Aljazeera about the two decades that the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó has resisted war.
How can we resist the horror that is cornering us? This question was asked by Ernesto Sabato in his letter "The Resistance", by the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in 1997 and perhaps it is a question that we are all asking ourselves now. "One does not dare when one is alone and isolated, but one can do so if one has sunk so deeply into the reality of others that one cannot turn back," Sabato responded, and the Peace Community said the same.
The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was born on 23 March 1997, at a time when the violence of the armed conflict had the country under siege, especially in rural areas, and even more so there, as it was a strategic area for drug trafficking.
In an incessant scourge, guerrillas and paramilitaries were roaming the territory trying to control it and accusing the communities of collaborating with the enemy, whatever it was. These accusations were followed by all kinds of aggressions.
That March 23 marked the day when some 500 peasants decided to break away from this macabre logic and oppose at all costs being on one side or the other. They declared themselves a peace community, completely neutral and alien to any armed actor, including the National Army if necessary.
Resistance was not easy, it never is. Still, despite threats, assassinations and massacres, despite the fact that the armed actors continued and continue to plague the region, the Peace Community achieved something very rare in the history of the Colombian conflict: to preserve its territory. And they did so without weapons, without any armour other than their declaration of principles, holding on to an ethic of freedom, transparent dialogue, conflict resolution through dialogue and communitarian work. This is how they have resisted for 22 years and will continue to do so.
The Aljazeera documentary "In enemy territory", published this month, is the testimony of a pilgrimage that the Community made through its territory visiting those places where members of the community have been killed.
This pilgrimage is a way to meet again with the most geographically distant members, to reclaim their territory from the armed actors, to shake off the ghosts of horror and fear from the soil.
Aljazeera's documentary does not embellish anything, nor is it sordid. It is simply a discreet and respectful accompaniment. In the documentary we see the concerns of the Community, their anguish, the threats they still receive, despite the Peace Agreement signed in 2016. But we also see the way in which they resist and it is a great comfort to witness this.
"The human being knows how to make new paths out of obstacles because life only needs the space of a crack to be reborn. In this task the main thing is to refuse to asphyxiate as much of life as we can give birth to. Defend, as the occupied peoples have heroically done, the tradition that tells us how sacred man is. Not allowing the grace of the small moments of freedom that we can enjoy to be wasted: a table shared with people we love, creatures to whom we give shelter, a walk among the trees, the gratitude of a hug. An act of courage like jumping out of a burning house. These are not rational acts, but it is not important that they are, we will be saved by affection," said Ernesto Sabato in his letter.
The Peace Community has been saved by affection for twenty-two years and thanks to Alzajeera, Ramón Campos Iriarte and Alejandro Bernal Rueda, who made the documentary, we have an opportunity to see it.