Peace-building model takes root in Colombia

Arauca, Colombia—A grassroots peace-building model, initially developed by Ricardo Esquivia, a Mennonite leader in Colombia, is being utilized in a growing number of places. The model, called Citizen Commissions for Reconciliation (CCR), now links 220 organizations on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

An international forum held May 4-5, 2012 in Arauca, Colombia, was based on the CCR model. The event was convened by a variety of Protestant, Catholic and other civil society organizations, including the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent, nonpartisan conflict management centre created by the U.S. Congress.

According to Virginia Bouvier of the USIP, the event, which had been cancelled twice in the last two years because of security risks, drew some 200 people. Organizers created a "mesa de escucha" (listening table), where participants could register concerns not addressed elsewhere in the program. Participants shared testimonies of how the war has affected their communities. Speakers shared reconciliation experiences from other conflict zones such as Rwanda, Ireland and South Africa.

At the end of the forum participants announced the official launching of CCRs in a number of regions, and they issued a statement with a 10 year plan for advancing peace and reconciliation in Arauca. The plan includes strategies to link various parts of civil society and to establish a working group to dialogue with armed groups, public security forces and private companies.

"If we can bring peace in Arauca, it can be done anywhere," said Mennonite pastor Peter Stucky. "Our pain must motivate us to seek a definitive end to this war."

Esquivia was director of Justapaz, a ministry of Iglesia Menonita de Colombia (Mennonite Church of Colombia) from 1990 to 2003. He also served as director of the Human Rights and Peace Commission of the Evangelical Council of Colombia from 1990 to 2010. In 2005, he founded the Asociacion Sembrando Semillas De Paz (Sowing Seeds of Peace Association), known as Sembrandopaz (Sowing Peace). Esquivia developed the CCR model with funding from USIP.

MWC release