I don't think there is anything more appropriate to celebrate the second anniversary of Paulo's death than the ceasefire signed by the Colombian government and FARC rebels. After three years of peace talk, finally a good outcome was reached, a stronger agreement than expected and what feels like will truly be the beginning of end of this civil war that has taken over 220,000 lives.
Nearly 250 of the lives lost were from the Peace Community in San José de Apartadó. A group very dear to Paulo, who saw in him a friend and ally and who through work began a win-win trade partnership with Lush mainly for cacao. The Peace Community have lived for many decades in the middle of the armed conflict, refusing to take arms or to be uprooted from their lands. They rejected all armed groups and banned them from their territory, unfortuntely, that did not stop violence from reaching the heart of the community.
Paulo and I heard about them and met them through Tamera, the healing biotope in Southern Portugal. His relationship with them was very caring and beautiful. It's only natural that some of Paulo's ashes are buried in a sacred place at Tamera next to the stone that represents the death of one of their leaders. Before Paulo got ill, he was working on a campaign with Lush and Peace Brigade International to bring awareness to the plight of the Peace Community. That campaign went ahead while Paulo was in hopsital and he could watch the video of Simon Constantine handing over 9,000 signatures to the Colombian Embassador in the UK.
“We will not give in to armed pressure. We continue to work in a united way saying ‘no’ to war.” Jesus Emilio once said. The full peace process is just beginning, maybe they will have to continue to say no to war for a little longer, as it is not just the FARC, there are also right-wing paramilitary units that have taken over some of the drugtrade. The full process will also include a referendum and democratic inclusion of the rebels into the political process.
It is the beginning and it is to be celebrated. Definitely something to celebrate on the 23rd of June!
Here's an interview that Paulo made for Lush with members of the Peace Community.
Here the video of Simon's speech at the House of Lords during the time Paulo was in hospital telling the story of Paulo and the connection the Peace Community. This is a beautiful and moving video.