Until two years ago, José Goyes had lived in the indigenous community of Honduras in Cauca, Colombia. But his life came under threat because of his role as a leader in his community's struggle for land rights in the face of abuses committed by a multinational corporation that owns a dam in their area. The threats got worse and worse until finally on July 5, 2008, as he was leaving his office, hitmen fired 4 shots at him. Luckily, he survived, but he was forced to flee to Bogotá.
I recently met José in Colombia. He showed me the scars that the bullets left on him and told me about his best friend, Robert de Jesús Guachetá, who stayed behind to organize in the community and was not able to dodge the bullet when assassins came for him on May 18th, 2009. José asked me to tell their community's story and explain why so many indigenous Colombians, Afro-Colombians, and campesinos are being displaced. So, I'm writing you now to ask that you join me in taking two actions to support José and the 4.9 million people who have been internally displaced in Colombia.
First, send a message to your representative asking him/her to co-sponsor House Resolution 1224, which supports protection for indigenous and Afro-Colombian internally displaced persons.
Rep. Hank Johnson and 22 other representatives have just begun circulating this resolution in which our Congress would officially call on the Colombian government to fulfill its duties—as ruled by the Colombian Constitutional court—to protect threatened indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and aid those who have been internally displaced. Click here to get your representative to co-sponsor today!
Then once you've finished with the government, turn to your community to tell the stories of the displaced during the National Days of Action for Colombia this April.
Last year, you raised awareness about the size of the crisis in Colombia by making thousands of paper dolls to symbolize the large number of IDPs in Colombia. This year we need your help in moving past the statistics, as we start teaching about why displacement is happening in a campaign we're calling "Face the Displaced." Our partners in Colombia have helped us gather the portraits and stories of 40 brave people, like José, who have been forcibly displaced. As a way to make our legislators and communities "face up" to the human reality of this crisis, we're going to make large posters like this one of displaced Afro-Colombian leader Daira Quiñones.
Can you host a "Face the Displaced" poster-making party?
We'll give you all the resources you need to share the stories with your community and unleash your artistic side by creating a frame for each photo with a message to President Obama asking for U.S. policies towards Colombia that will support internally displaced people and help alleviate the crisis. And then throughout April, we'll display these finished portraits in exciting public demonstrations across the country, as churches in the U.S. and Colombia join together in prayer for peace on April 16th-19th.
We know that this is a lot to put on your plate, but we also have faith that you're up to the task. Click here to get involved.
And if you're into Facebook, click here to become a fan of Days of Prayer and Action.
Thanks in advance for lending your time and voice!