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Oscar's Story

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Oscar was born in Medellín and is a member of the Medellín Network for Conscientious Objection (Tejido por Objecion de Conciencia de Medellín). He is also a leader ofMedellín's Mennonite Peace Church social action group and the secretary of the Medellín Network of Peace Churches, as well as being a nonviolent activist and a restorative justice facilitator at two detention centres in Medellín. Here, he gives us an account of working in Colombia's conscientious objection movement on the grounds of his Mennonite interpretation of Christianity.

For many people, Christianity is synonymous with ecclesiastical hierarchy, the Crusades, economic exploitation, dark alliances with sectors of the far right, and other phenomena of the kind. That branch of the Church which has worked for justice and dignity over the course of centuries, and which has assumed a historic commitment to resisting any kind of oppression, in the name of Jesus, has been rendered invisible. In this branch of the Church however, we have been steadfastly promoting the struggle for the protection of human rights, the environment, all forms of life, and dignity as the most important property of every human being, considering God the primary interested party in this struggle, based on our interpretation of Jesus' summary of the Ten Commandments: 'Love God above all things and your neighbour as yourself'.

Julián's Story

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Julián Andrés Ovalle was born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1981. For ten years, he was part of Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ACOOC, Conscientious Objectors' Collective Action), an organisation which aims to create the concrete conditions for people to be able to opt for alternatives to militarism, specifically alternatives to obligatory military service in Colombia. Currently, he is working towards the consolidation of a Latin American and Caribbean Antimilitarist Network. Here, he writes about being a conscientious objector on the grounds of his pacifism in Colombia.

The persistence of wars is shocking evidence that people are the ones who sustain them. It’s not just the major powers, those with industrial interests or armies; we individuals from all over the world provide financing and legitimacy which keeps weapons firing indiscriminately. It is not just neoliberal interest in controlling land for the exploitation of its natural resources, it is also our everyday consumption which enables large companies to continue extracting, producing, and selling for profit.

Different Motivations in the Latin American Movement: Rafa's anarchist perspective

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Rafael Uzcategui is a Venezuelan conscientious objector, author, and human rights activist who has been active with War Resisters' International, and in antimilitarism more generally, for many years. Here, he summarises the main tendencies of the Latin American conscientious objection movement, and details how his own nonviolent anarchist position fits into this picture.

During the eighties, many Latin American countries were living under military dictatorships or suffering the consequences of civil war. These were also the days of the Cold War, during which the US considered Latin America one of its 'zones of influence': almost like a back garden. The traumatic and progressive democratisation process meant that broad swathes of the continent's youth developed an antimilitarist sentiment, which began to take on an organised and political dimension. As an adolescent at the beginning of the nineties in Barquisimeto, a town 5 hours away from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, my peers and I had to hide ourselves twice a year for fifteen days, to avoid compulsory military service. Otherwise they would seize us on the streets and, without wasting words, force us into a truck, with others just as terrified, and from there take us to the barracks. For many of us, these forced recruitment raids or 'press gangs' were the starting point for our rejection of authority and of the military uniform.

Four new affiliates for WRI

National Land Rights Forum, NepalNational Land Rights Forum, Nepal

At the WRI Council meeting in Seoul, Korea, the WRI Council was delighted to admit four new associated organisation as members of War Resisters' International:

The Antimilitarist Kollective of Medellín, Colombia: an affinity group that promotes antimilitarism and conscientious objection to war as a way of life and as a way to fight for political and social advocacy. We fight for the transformation towards a more just, inclusive, equitable and humane society which promotes autonomy, self-determination and the freedom of people.

The Centre for Peace Studies, Zagreb, Croatia, is a non-profit citizens’ association whose mission is promoting non-violence, human rights and social change through education, research, public policies and activism. CPS grew out of various direct forms of peace-building activities in the region of western Slavonia during the 1990s war in Croatia (community projects such as The Volunteer Project Pakrac and The Croatian Anti-War Campaign - ARK). It was established in 1997, formally in 1999.

The Community Self Reliance Center, Nepal whose vision is to see a Nepali society where everyone enjoys a secure, free and dignified life. Their mission is to empower land-poor women and men enabling them to claim and exercise their basic rights, including right to land resources, contributing to eradicating poverty and injustice.

The National Land Rights Forum (NLRF), Nepal whose vision is to see a self-reliant farmer community in Nepal, and whose mission is to empower the land-poor people by organizing and conscientizing them to enable to launch struggle against discriminations and claim their farmers’ rights.

We welcome all of them and look forward to working together.

COLOMBIA: National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors (ANOOC) Statement

The National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors in Colombia have released a statement criticising the ongoing use of 'batida' raids, despite the practise being declared illegal by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Arrest (Opinion 8/08) and the Constitutional Court in Sentences. The statement insists that the practise is stopped, along with any other form of forced recruitment into the Colombian military, and calls for solutions to conflict “different to the fratricidal war that has written Colombian history”.

Read the full statement here:

National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors (ANOOC) Statement

August 2015

In a country that has gone through many stages of armed conflict throughout its history, where the military has been permeating the fine threads of social relations, various women and men have decided to move forward in the belief that war is not an engine of history and development, neither a condemnation, nor a destiny which we cannot escape; it is the expression of a way of solving social conflicts, used to deflect the factors that create it, maintaining their conditions and creating better conditions in order to perpetuate itself as a naturalized social dynamic.

WRI Appeal: International solidarity and the Struggle against Militarism in Colombia

Diego with his degree certificateDiego with his degree certificateThe WRI bi-annual appeal was sent out this month.  It was written by Colombian CO activist Diego Carreño Neira and talked about the significant progress which WRI and Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ACOOC: Colombian Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors) have made together, most recently in making it possi

Positive constitutional court decision in Colombia for COs

Campaigners in Colombia have been boosted by a new ruling from the Constitutional Court. In a case brought by two conscientious objectors (COs) who had been forcibly recruited into the military, in January the Court ordered the National Recruitment Office to: resolve applications for CO within 15 days; to publish a booklet that notifies youth of their grounds for exemption, deferral, and their right to CO; and to end the practices of arbitrary detention, including batidas (recruitment raids, usually in public spaces).

Objection de conscience : des nouvelles de la Colombie et une pétition finlandaise.

Une décision nouvelle de la Cour constitutionnelle de Colombie concernant les cas de deux objecteurs de conscience a stimulé les militant-e-s colombien-ne-s. Ces deux objos avaient été incorporés de force à l'armée et la Cour a ordonné au Bureau national du recrutement qu'il examine les requêtes des objecteurs de conscience dans les 15 jours, qu'il publie un prospectus qui notifie à la jeunesse les motifs d'exemptoin, de réforme et leur droit à l'objection de conscience. Elle ordonne aussi que soit mis fin aux détentions arbitraires, y compris les batidas (arrestations aux fins de recrutements forcés effectuées le plus souvent dans des espaces publics). Ce droit inclut celui de réclamer son droit à l'objection de conscience une fois encaserné. La Cour a aussi demandé à l'armée de rendre un rapport, dans les six mois, sur la mise en oeuvre de ces décisions. Si elles sont entièrement appliquées, cela marquerait un changement énorme pour la jeunesse en Colombie, et plus particulièrement pour les objecteurs de conscience.

Pour plus de détails (en espagnol)...

En Finlande, l'Union des objecteurs de conscience (AKL - Union of Conscientious Objectors) lancent une pétition réclamant à leur gouvernement la fin de la conscription et de l'emprisonnement des objecteurs de conscience. Merci d'y ajouter votre nom ici.

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