AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Educating young people for peace, a sign of hope in the midst of the Colombian conflict

Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Bogota (Agenzia Fides) - Education is essential to prevent children and adolescents from repeating the violence that plagues the region. This was stated by Juan Casas, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service Colombia (JRS).
The international Catholic organization is closely following the alarming situation of children and young people in the border areas between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, areas that do not have adequate infrastructure or services and suffer from the persistent conflict in Colombia that particularly affects children and young people.
"The presence of the army frightens the civilian population because moments of confrontation between the guerrillas and the military generate violence and the latter, in turn, cause displacement", Casas continues after his recent visit to Serranía de San Lucas, a highly inaccessible area, where armed conflict is a constant threat. “Children play at being soldiers or guerrillas. With a broomstick they pretend to have a rifle in their hands. Or they hood up with a sweater. They reproduce what they see. But sadly, those games can become reality”.
For JRS, it is urgent to build spaces for peaceful coexistence. The organization has been involved for years, together with teachers and families involved in the education of children and young people at risk. "The school, with its structures, the football and basketball fields, becomes a protective space and that is how we work with the civilian population to guarantee a safe space that cannot be touched", explains Casas, who adds how the guerrillas have respected that space and "nothing has ever happened in there".
The country's poverty, and especially in these more inaccessible regions, sometimes makes intervention processes difficult. But, for Casas, it is essential to work there "to tell the world that there is hope in these corners of Colombia in the midst of hopelessness and conflict."
JRS Colombia began its activities in the country in 1994 in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the intensification of armed actions throughout the country. These brought with them numerous forced displacements, which continue to occur today with the same intensity. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 16/5/2023)