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19 December 2009

J’ai rencontré un ancien leader du commando qui a retenu mon père en otage

Je dédie cette vidéo et ce texte à ma grande soeur Diane. C’est mon cadeau de Noël à ma “Doudou” chérie…

Colombie, le 17 décembre 2009, frontière entre le Colombie et l’Equateur:

Tandis que je faisais la queue au bureau de contrôle des passeports, Rafael de la Rubia me prend à part et me dit doucement:”nous souhaitons te présenter quelqu’un: il s’agit du gouverneur de ce département, Antonio Navarro, ancien leader du groupe M-19 qui a participé indirectement à l’opération de la prise d’otage de ton père et de plusieurs autres ambassadeurs…”

J’en ai eu le souffle coupé et je me suis sentie instantanément envahie par une émotion très forte. Je me suis approché de cet homme presque aussi distingué que l’était mon père, dans le style aristocratique comme lui. Rafa me présente à lui. Dans un premier temps, il ne semble pas saisir à qui il a à faire et me lance un “Nice to meet you!”. Mais quand il voit les larmes poindre dans mes yeux, il devient troublé et Rafa lui explique que je suis la fille d’un ancien ambassadeur suisse pris en otage par ses anciens camarades de lutte, à l’ambassade de République dominicaine à Bogota en 1980. Antonio Navarro n’a pas participé directement à l’assaut de l’ambassade mais en avait été l’un des “cerveaux” et suivait les opérations minute après minute depuis la jungle où il s’était caché.

Malgré ma pudeur et l’intimité de cet instant, nous décidons de filmer cette rencontre pour offrir ce témoignage à la paix et à la réconciliation. Dans un premier temps, Antonio Navarro est tendu et légèrement sur sa défensive. Puis, devant ma sincérité et mon désir profond de transformer les souffrances du passé en une énergie de paix et d’espérance, cet ancien guérillero capitule. Il me présente ses excuses et à ma famille. Il semble à son tour assez ému. Après de nombreuses tragédies dont la prise de plus de 300 personnes en otage sur le lieu de la Cour Suprême colombienne se soldant par une centaine de morts en 1985, le mouvement M-19 finira par déposer les armes et à renoncer à la violence pour se reconvertir en parti politique. “Nous avions pris conscience que la violence ne conduit nulle part” a-t-il expliqué pendant notre échange.

Quand le présent transformé répare le passé...

Quand le présent transformé répare le passé...

Nous nous prenons dans les bras. Le temps a suspendu son vol. Là encore, à cet instant, il n’y a ni victime ni bourreau, ni bon ni méchant. Il n’y a qu’une énergie d’amour qui répare tout. Et si c’était, entre autre, grâce à ce drame que je marche aujourd’hui et que j’ai trouvé du sens à ma vie?
En priorité, je souhaite dédier cette rencontre à ma grande soeur Diane qui, comme moi, a souffert de cet épisode de notre vie. Nous avions 14 et 18 ans et tous les jours, nous craignions pour la vie de notre père qui avait été séparé des autres otages, pour être tué le premier au cas où les autorités colombiennes ne répondaient pas aux revendications du commando. Finalement, la prise d’otage s’est achevée avec la libération des otages à Cuba, le jour de mon anniversaire, le 28 avril 1980.

Ensuite, je souhaite offrir ce témoignage à toutes les familles colombiennes qui ont été touchées et sont encore affectées par l’enlèvement ou la séquestration de l’un de leur proche. Selon David Nassar, coordinateur pour la Marche Mondiale en Colombie, de mémoire d’hommes, jamais une rencontre “spontanée” entre un membre de la famille d’un otage et un ancien preneur d’otage n’a été possible. “Votre réconciliation représente un espoir immense pour tous” m’a confié Tomy Hirsch, porte-parole de la Marche en Amérique Latine, encore stupéfait par ce dont il venait d’être témoin.

La vie m’offre l’un des plus beaux cadeaux de Noël. Je suis comblée de le partager avec ma grande sœur, ma famille et mes amis colombiens.

Antonio Navarro a achevé notre rencontre pas ces mots:” il n’y a pas un jour où nous ne parlons pas des derniers actes de violence dans notre pays. Il n’y a pas un jour où la violence ne vient pas frapper à ma porte. Cependant, aujourd’hui est un grand jour pour moi car, pour la première fois, c’est la paix qui est venue me rendre visite.”

La guérison

La guérison

19 December 2009

(English) Feeding time at the zoo – a day with Juanes

(English) Here I am writing from Ecuador trying to integrate into my consciousness everything that happened in Colombia.  We have received one of the best receptions of the World March throughout its entire journey so far, maybe it’s even been the best and, far and away, we have had the most success in terms of media coverage.

We arrived on Tuesday and already at the airport we had at least 100 people waiting for us to arrive.  There were TV cameras, dancers, singers and big hugs for all the base team members.  We were transferred to our hotel where we dropped our bags and rushed off to a press conference with the Mayor, Samuel Moreno and his lovely wife.  Also at the press conference we had a couple of very famous Colombian musicians, Pipe Bueno who’s only 17 years old, and Mario Munoz from the group Doctor Krapula.  Of course, coming from North Europe, I’ve never heard of them but in Colombia they are known everywhere.

Once this was over we took a funicular railway and headed to the top of Montserrat where we were expected for dinner.  We have had very little opportunity for tourism throughout the whole March because that’s not what we came for, but from Montserrat you could see the whole of the city lit up at night, and in addition we had an exquisite dinner which is probably the best food of the whole trip, even beating the crayfish of Rekohu!  (Also it made a great change from frijoles, the staple diet of Central America.)

The next day there was a mega march of about 6 kilometres from one park to another going through the city of Bogota.  We were accompanied by the Mayor’s wife, a senator whose husband was murdered by paramilitary forces and who has been working for peace ever since, and at the start of the March we had Mario with us again and the band, Aterciopelados.  The musicians didn’t march with us though as they were playing in the concert later.  The media were there in force, and even Reuters asked me for an interview in English!

We did the March with what must have been at least 2000 people with hundreds of banners showing that we had the support of many organisations, including the LGBT community, I was happy to note.

The concert started at about 2pm, but at 3pm it rained for about 15 minutes (while the base team were all eating lunch) so by the time we arrived at the stadium the poor audience were drenched!  Still, it didn’t seem to matter to them, they were here for a party and a bit of rain wasn’t going to stop them.

Rafael and Tomy went on stage and got another fantastic reception.  When it was Tomy’s turn to speak to the audience he knew exactly what to say: “Here in Colombia people want no more violence.  They want an end to obligatory military service.  They don’t want US military bases.”  The crowd went wild.  It was fantastic and given that the concert was apparently being broadcast live, the message reached all over Colombia.

It is clear that this is a very effective way to get our message across to our target audience: youth.  There were about 8 or 9 acts playing, either they were wearing the World March t-shirts, singing about peace, or expressing what peace is for them.  Aterciopelados came on stage with white furry peace symbols…

There was a reserved area in front of the audience where special invited guests could go.  The base team were there and took advantage of the good view to take lots of photos and talk to the other people who were also receiving the VIP treatment.  It was great fun.  Sinthya and Juanita were transported back in time to their own adolescence and they insisted on staying right to the end whereas the others lost their energy and enthusiasm and returned to the hotel early.

The next morning we flew to the border with Ecuador, to a city called Pasto where we were meant to drive to the border to meet Juanes.  Now those of you in Latin America or Spain will probably know who he is, but most of the rest of us had no idea.

As has become a bad habit now, we were late for the event but mostly this was because the connecting flight arrived late into Bogota.  We drove through the stunning Colombian countryside, and my old Geography teacher would have been delighted to know that I can still identify a V-shaped (water eroded) valley which are very different from the U-shaped (ice eroded) valleys of the Alps and Andes.  The countryside left us feeling very peaceful and enamoured of the region but we really had no idea what was about to happen to shake us from that reverie…

On arrival at the border town we could see up ahead that there was a crowd waiting so we stopped our bus, got our banners out and started walking in that direction.  What we found was the traffic totally still and hundreds of people; women and men of all ages, and the police and firemen trying to form a barrier between Juanes and his fans.  I was thinking to myself, “How the hell are we going to get in there?”  The crowd was about 10 people deep and tightly packed.

So, I think Juanes must have got out of his car and started walking totally encircled by all these security people from the Police and fire brigade.  I realised that there was no way to push my way through the crowd, so I went ahead of the mob and waited for it to reach me, and as the security people reached me I told them that I was with the World March and that (together with my Spanish in a terrible English accent) was enough for them to let me into the inner circle, where I eventually found Rafael (who had clearly pushed his way through) and Tomy.  We walked all together in our secure bubble, but at the bubble’s edge it was like feeding time at the zoo.  Everyone wanted a piece of Juanes.  The crowds had clearly attracted the pickpockets also because by the time they had breached the security bubble, Tomy had had his passport and wallet taken, Rafa was missing all the coins in his pockets and David (our Colombian Coordinator) was without his blackberry and mobile phone.

Still, with all this chaos there was the media.  It seemed like there were hundreds of expensive cameras all pointing in Juanes’s direction and apparently a couple of channels were broadcasting live.

We approached the civic buildings where a banner was to be handed over to the Ecuadorian singer, Juan Fernando Velasco, and things were getting more and more scary.  There were stone steps to negotiate and of course cameramen and young people were falling over everywhere, not realising the steps were approaching.  In this moment I saw Isabelle and I had an idea to ask Juanes to say a few words for all the thousands of volunteers around the world who have worked so brilliantly for the success of the March.  I tried to get Isabelle through the security cordon which was impeded by the fact that she kept dropping things like the microphone and her hat.  Anyway, we got her in and ready to film and I asked him to say a few words and he gladly did so, but then Isabelle was pressing buttons and plugs because there was no sound.  We tried a couple of times and although we got images there was no sound.  Then she realised that the camera was in the wrong mode and that we hadn’t captured anything.  By that time of course Juanes had passed by and we were in the crowd again.  Well it was so stressful that I didn’t want to push in again and say we’d had a technical malfunction, but Isabelle was so upset with herself for not capturing the sound that she went off to try again (which she did, incidentally).

Juanes met the Ecuadorean and together with Rafa and Tomy they all said a few words and suddenly Juanes was moving again, back up the hill, with his fans still trying to kill each other in order to get as close as possible and take a photo.

I was very shocked by what I’d witnessed, for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, poor Juanes!!!  This is his life every time he leaves his front door.  He told me he’d been in London a couple of weeks ago and I was imagining that for him that must be lovely because he could walk down the middle of Oxford Street naked (although in December it’s not recommended) and no one would notice him.  Secondly, people are crazy!!  This is the World March for Nonviolence, but I don’t think many of those people would think twice about pushing people out of the way if it meant they could get 2 centimetres closer to their hero.  Montse damaged her ribcage in the all the pushing as she made her way into the inner circle and the poor guy who was carrying the World March t-shirts was virtually assaulted by the people who wanted to get the same t-shirt as Juanes, of course not one of these people thought to pay for them.  Sometimes the difference between human being and savage animal is very difficult to detect.

One very nice story to go with the day was the personal journey of reconciliation taken by our Isabelle.  Isabelle is from Switzerland and her father was a Swiss diplomat and in 1980 he was the Swiss Ambassador to Colombia when a violent paramilitary group called M-19 forced their way into an Ambassadors’ party that he was attending and took 13 Ambassadors hostage.

After a 2 month siege of the Dominican Republic Embassy, eventually a deal was prepared whereby the hostages and hostage-takers were transported to Cuba where everyone was released unharmed, but during the 2 months, both the Swiss and Austrian Ambassadors had been kept separated from the others and were prepared to be the first ones killed should the government not meet the demands of the hostages.

Isabelle’s father died 9 years later, but Isabelle was a teenager when all this was happening and it’s clearly something that she still hasn’t recovered from.

In the March with Juanes, we were also accompanied by the elected Governor of the Region, Antonio Navarro Wolff, who was in the M-19 leadership during the time of the hostage drama.  He was, very kindly, helping us to get our passports checked quickly when someone told Isabelle about this and suddenly she was face to face with one of the people responsible for her father’s kidnapping.  It was a very tense moment which I think she had been preparing for right from the beginning of her plans to join the March.  Her idea was to interview him about those dramatic days and try to find some reconciliation for herself.  I haven’t seen the footage that they took, but Isabelle was barely able to ask the questions without crying and tears were pouring down her cheeks, but she continued asking all the questions that she must have been asking herself for years.  It was very moving to watch and all the rest of the base team were standing around intensely aware of the drama and significance of what was happening to Isabelle.

The Governor was initially surprised and probably a bit frightened by what was happening – I don’t imagine that many hostage takers meet the family members of their hostages, especially 19 years later – and he was probably expecting a hysterical Isabelle to start kicking an punching him and he started very defensive, but I think he started to realised that this was not about any kind of revenge, it was about Isabelle trying to understand why this had happened to her as a teenage girl and he softened and the two of them seemed to connect at a very human level.

He explained that his left leg was artificial and a result of the conflict, but Isabelle pointed out that he had put himself into that situation and only had himself to blame unlike her father who was just doing his job.

The interview finished in a very good tone and they exchanged e-mail addresses.  M-19 gave up the path of violence years ago and has entered into a political process and in fact we found out that the person in charge of that hostage operation was now working alongside President Uribe having totally turned around his political opinions.  I don’t think Isabelle thought for one minute that he’d even still be alive!  Maybe there will be some further interviews Isabelle will want to make before the reconciliation is totally complete…

Finally we left Colombia very, very late, with a military airplane waiting for us on the other side of the border, but the drama of the day (for me at least) was not over.

The Ecuadorian organisers took us to the border control where we had very little time indeed if we were going to catch our flight (it had to fly in day light) and we had our passports checked.  Now, I’ve been to Ecuador before for a Humanist Forum in 2006, but I’ve had a new passport issued since then.  The border guard put my name and date of birth into a computer and suddenly he was telling me that I can’t come into the country because I didn’t get my passport stamped on the way out last time, and that I would have to pay a US $200 fine if I wanted to enter.  Now, I have no way of knowing if this is true or not, all I know is that when I left Quito last time, I paid the exorbitant airport tax and stood in the same queues as everyone else.  What I can more easily imagine is a human error at the border controls in 2006 and my passport wasn’t processed properly.  However none of this speculation was helping when the guard told me I couldn’t come into the country.  He dealt with everyone else, and with all hope of any of us getting this flight fading into the distance, suddenly he changed his mind and told me to go and sort it out in Quito.  So here I am in Quito without an entry stamp in my passport and desperately hoping that the Ecuadorian friends, with their newly acquired high-level contacts in government, are able to clear everything up before I take my plane on Sunday to Lima…

With a big hug

Tony

18 December 2009

Colombie: mon conte d’Anderson…

LA rencontre de "ma" marche... Anderson, 10 ans.

LA rencontre de "ma" marche... Anderson, 10 ans.

Ce soir, j’ai vécu, sans hésiter, le moment le plus fort de “ma” Marche.

Déjà, dans la journée, notre Marche locale a été largement suivie par des milliers de Colombiens venus soutenir notre cause. Une marée humaine à perte de vue a traversé les rues de Bogota.

En terme de superficie, Bogotá est la plus grande ville en Colombie et son altitude (2.640 mètres) fait d’elle la troisième plus haute ville dans le monde, après La Paz et Quito.
Une telle mobilisation populaire s’explique simplement: avec les cartels des trafiquants de drogue, les commandos de la guérilla, les escadrons de la mort et les tueurs à gages qui négocient leurs services dans les rues de Medellín ou de Cali, la Colombie est connue comme un des symboles de la violence organisée. Au quotidien, c’est également un pays où le règlement des conflits par la violence est un phénomène banalisé. Au total, avec un taux d’homicides de plus de 75 pour 100 000 habitants, elle est loin devant les autres pays d’Amérique latine dont ce taux s’établi autour de 20 pour 100 000. Il n’y a pas un Colombiens qui n’a pas été directement touché par la criminalité et ses conséquences.

Après une dizaine de kilomètres, le public se rend dans un parc où un méga concert pour les jeunes a été organisé gratuitement pour l’occasion. L’équipe de base s’éclipse une petite heure pour aller déjeuner dans le jardin botanique de la ville où je mange l’une des meilleures soupes de ma vie! Puis les organisateurs nous font la surprise de nous faire visiter un papillorama. Je me croirais un plein conte de fées avec des centaines de papillons multicolores qui viennent se déposer sur nous, nos épaules, nos cheveux et nos mains. Je retiens mon souffle pour les filmer…

Ensuite, nous retrouvons le public sur le lieu du concert donné par 5 groupes et chanteurs vedettes de Colombie. L’un d’eux, Pipe Bueno, soulève les hurlements de la foule et est l’un de nos meilleurs ambassadeurs de la paix auprès de la jeunesse.

Après deux heures de concert, je me retire un instant sous une tente à l’attention des marcheurs et des artistes. Quand tout à coup, une horde d’enfant envahit joyeusement l’espace. Ce sont 38 enfants sélectionnés parmi les meilleurs élèves de la ville de Popayan, à 2 heures d’avion. Chacun d’eux, étant le meilleur de son école (38 établissements) a reçu le cadeau de venir assister à ce concert pour la paix ,à Bogota. La plupart sont de conditions très modestes et ne mangent qu’une fois par jour.

Parmi eux, j’ai rencontré un ange. Anderson, 10 ans, est venu s’assoir à côté de moi. Je lui ai dit que j’avais fait tout le parcours de la Marche, que je l’avais fait pour lui, pour les enfants comme lui, pour leur laisser un monde un peu meilleur (peut-être) que celui dont nous avons hérité. Anderson m’a prise dans ses bras, m’a serré très fort et m’a dit: “Merci merci d’avoir fait cela pour nous car nous ne voulons plus vivre dans la violence. Nous voulons vivre dans un monde de paix et d’amour. Nous voulons un nouveau monde. Votre nom, c’est Isabelle comme la reine d’Espagne! Et bien pour moi, vous êtes ma reine et je ne vous oublierai jamais! La Colombie vous aime et nous voulons la paix!” m’a-t-il confié en séchant discrètement ses larmes. Je l’ai pris à mon tour dans mes bras et j’ai pleuré avec lui. Nous avons pleuré ensemble et d’autres enfants sont venus nous rejoindre et nous enlacer avec émotion. A cet instant, il n’y avait pas de “grands” et de “petits”, d’adultes et d’enfants, de marcheurs et de non marcheurs. Nous faisions UN avec l’univers et nous étions dans un état de communion totale, sur un autre plan, dans une dimension où les mots n’existent plus. C’est difficile à expliquer… mais c’était de l’ordre de l’expérience mystique.

Cet instant de tendresse et de gratitude, ces baisers échangés entre moi et ces petits ont justifié mes efforts, ma fatigue, mes instants de doute ou de lassitude. Non seulement Anderson et ses camarades ont donné du sens à mes pas (ils en avaient déjà beaucoup…) mais m’ont-ils donné aussi la détermination de passer le reste de ma vie à promouvoir la paix. Quand j’ai demandé à Anderson ce qu’il souhaitait faire plus tard pour la paix, il m’a répondu:”marcher!”. J’ai été bouleversée par l’intelligence et la vivacité de ce jeune garçon, par la gravité de ses paroles et la profondeur de son regard. Pia, directrice de l’agence de presse Pressenza pour laquelle je travaille, a été témoin de la scène, très émue elle aussi. Alors, elle m’a dit: tu vois Isabelle, tu as trouvé ici ce que tu étais venu chercher: la réconciliation. Il y a 30 ans, ton père a été pris en otage à Bogota et a été séquestré dans la violence. Ce soir, à travers les baisers et les bras de cet enfant, c’est toute la Colombie qui demande pardon.”

A peine ressaisie, je suis repartie avec les enfants devant la scène où nous nous sommes mis à danser avec une joie infinie! J’ai dansé avec Anderson et ses camarades jusqu’à l’épuisement ou presque . Je crois que je peux avouer sans réserve ce soir que je n’ai jamais contacté “Dieu” d’aussi près qu’à travers l’étreinte de cet enfant. Un instant, elle m’a éveillée. Dix secondes qui ont changé ma vie. Dieu n’est ni dans les églises ni au Ciel mais il siège dans le “sacré-cœur” de l’homme. Il se manifeste sur le lieu de notre communion les uns aux autres. Il n’est nulle part ailleurs que dans l’expérience. C’est mon conte d’Anderson…

18 December 2009

(English) Cape Town!

(English) Today was the last day of our route, and we can say that we closed on a high note!
Cape Town is a beautiful and unique city, here is where the waters of the Indic and the Atlantic oceans meet. People are very relaxed and friendly.

Today we had a fantastic meeting in the church (St. George), along with various organizations for Peace (Southern Africa Peace Alliance, Network Ubuntu, Youth Ambassadors for Peace, Living for Change-Gandhi’s Association, among others), and people from several countries (Congo , Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Venezuela). The environment was very festive, we saw each other for the first time but it seemed that we were old friends. The interesting thing was that almost all were volunteers and were really anxious to change the current situation, but in different forms. We shared many experiences, listen to music (for Peace) which opened our hearts and something profound happened at that moment, a connection to the essence of human being.
At the end we were very excited, hugged each other and thanked each other …
Words cannot describe the moment. Hopefully we can edit the video as soon as possible.

Thank you all, especially  Karen, Kiran, Maria and Jose.

Tomorrow we return home. Nothing will be the same …

We are millions already, and the world is changing! ;-)

Carla, Rui, Ivo, Rosângela, Sam.

Pictures http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/EastSouhernAfricaRouteDay21#

17 December 2009

(English) Do you know the way to San José?

(English) I’m not sure Dionne Warwick was talking about San José, Costa Rica when she sang, “I’ve got lots of friends in San José.” However, the lyrics fit perfectly.

Finally, after more than 70 countries through which the World March has passed we reach a country without an army and you can immediately feel the difference as you leave Nicaragua behind.  We have passed through many militarised countries in Central America all of which have suffered decades of dictatorships, genocides and slaughter.  Compare this to Costa Rica where there has been nothing like this since 1949 when they abolished the Army.  This country is so far ahead of its time it’s unbelievable.  In 1840 they abolished the death penalty!  The USA, China, India and Indonesia (the four countries with the world’s highest population) all still have it, along with 54 other countries that have used it in the last 10 years.  I was surprised to find that even little Togo in West Africa with a terrible history of dictatorship has just abolished the death penalty.

Another great thing about Costa Rica is our band of drummers who have been with us since we crossed into Guatemala.  Rafael, Jonathan, Felipe and Alberto have been banging their drums whenever we stopped the bus, and sometimes Alberto blows his didgeridoo.

The music makes such a difference to the atmosphere of a March, and in Central America they love music.  We’ve had brass bands and drummers accompanying us all over the region and many times, once a march has finished, the musicians gather around and start playing random tunes and making music.  The drummers are also really kind and open as was shown by the way that they invited Pierre to play with them as they marched.  Really, I can’t speak highly enough of the contribution that they made to our journey; apart from the fact that they bring their music they have been great company and a constant source of fun for all of us.

In San José we stayed at a Quaker Friends’ house and on our first evening on arrival we were invited by Alexander Mora Mora, the Costa Rican MP who accompanied the March through Europe, to his house for a party.  As an MP, Alexander lives in a nice part of the city and we were very well looked after and had the chance to meet other MPs and interesting people who are committed to Peace and Nonviolence.  Rafa is already starting to think about organising a Nuclear Disarmament Conference here in the future…

On the following day we had a short March through the city to the square where an all day concert was taking place in support of the World March.  It was all a great effort by the Costa Ricans.

The only sadness on this part of the World March was that we weren’t able to meet one of our biggest supporters, Rodrigo Carazo.  He was the former President of the country and the founder of the University for Peace.  He has been a great support of the World March and although we weren’t able to thank him in person we dedicate the Central American leg of the World March to his memory.

Finally, I can’t finish this entry without paying tribute to Ester Previtera from Costa Rica whose phenomenal efforts to gather the resources to pay for our bus through the region have been hugely appreciated by the base team and many thanks to Ticabus and our driver Hugo who did a great job in getting us safely to our destinations.  Travelling by bus has its advantages over flying: firstly there’s no need to waste time to check in– you can just get out of bed, have a shower, throw your possessions back in your bag and leave; you don’t have to worry about your electronic equipment interfering with the flight controls; and you can see the countryside go by.  It has been a very long trip through the region but one that I shall never forget.

With a big hug

Tony

17 December 2009

(English) Manhiҫa, Chopal and Matola – EastSouthen Africa route day 15

(English) Day 15

Today early morning we were in Manhiça to take part in the events of celebration of the passage of MM in this city. We were greeted with enthusiastic chants of a group of children and local humanists, then we went to the place where they would perform the ceremony with a representative of the municipality. While we sang the national anthem two flags were hoisted: World Without Wars and the World March, was a very special moment. After the hymn the BT spokesperson and the representative of the Municipality uttered a few words. Then we made a short march through the city and end with a symbol of peace in the city square where we also deliver a certificate of participation to Mrs. Ana, who’s representing the mayor, he was the 1st to join this great march.

Four  new staff  have joined  the base team, it is amazing how quickly we moved from 4 to 13, the environment is amazing!

It was a little mid-afternoon when we sailed to Maputo where our 1st stop was in the neighborhood of Chopal for the inauguration of a wall of tiles, which was designed especially for this day. Featured live coverage of RM, the official radio of the World March in Mozambique. There were performances by various cultural groups, as well as some words of the volunteers who participated in the “transformation” of  this wall, and a spokesperson for EB.

It was an excellent job, and the wall is beautiful. At the end we were all filled with tears in the eyes.

Once completed the activities in chopal, we went to Matola’s city. We arrived and there was a beautiful scenario, a group of capoeira danced around a campfire.

We started our march for an hour with torches and candles, and the Mayor marched with us. The march ended at the City Council with  an audience of dozens of people and included the speechs of the spokesperson of  Humanism for Africa, Michel Ussene, chairman of the council, Arão Nhancale and Samira Weng.
We now have the responsibility to take with  us until the end of March the flag of the Municipal Council of Matola offered to us by the Mayor .

We finished very excited, all singing “ É a nossa Paz”(“It is our Peace”)

Hugs

Samira, Ivo, Rui, Carla, Marta, Mauro, Tânia, Roângela, John, Mílton, Tininho, Edite, Tércia.

Photos:

http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/EastSouthernAfricaRouteDay15ManhicaAndChopal#

17 December 2009

(English) Tofinho – East Southern Africa route, day 14

(English) Day 14

Today we went to Tofinho (one of the beaches of Inhambane), a place where 500 years ago slaves were thrown against the rocks and angry waves. Today there persists a monument as a way to pay tribute to all those who were brutally raped. When we arrived we dedicate some time to meditate and reconciliate with that past so recent, and ask for a date in the future inhuman situations like this no longer exist.
From Tofinho  we were directly to  Macia (Gaza province), where we are now. We are going to spend the night here and tomorrow we will continue the travel to Manhiça and Matola’s city.

Hugs

Carla, Rui, Ivo, Samira, Marta, Mauro, Rosângela, Tânia, João.

Photos:

http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/EastSouthernAfricaRouteDay14#

14 December 2009

Au Nicaragua, grâce à la Marche, un conflit a pu être évité

Au Nicaragua, notre Marche a obtenu des résultats très concrets et encourageants. Nous avons reçu un rapport de l’Institut Martin Luther King faisant état d’un conflit de rue majeur évité grâce à notre action.
Le 21 novembre dernier à Managua, deux grandes marches politiques et opposées l’une à l’autre allaient certainement finir dans l’affrontement, selon les organisateurs et les activistes du gouvernement et de l’opposition.
Le même jour, un article faisant état des intentions de “La Marche Mondiale par la Paix et la Nonviolence” a été publié à grand tirage. Le journaliste encourageait le dialogue sur la confrontation.

Ainsi, cette référence à la Marche Mondiale par la Paix et la vision qui s’en détachait, a produit des résultats inespérés quant au déroulement de ces marches qui finalement se sont tenues séparément et à des heures différentes, dans le calme et le respect mutuel. N’est-ce pas là le rôle réel de la presse? Nous autres journalistes, quel choix faisons-nous ? Nous mettre au service de la paix ou de la peur ? Faire de notre métier un outil d’ouverture et de promotion de la confiance et de la paix ou préférons-nous en faire un vecteur de peurs et de mal-être ? Il ne s’agit pas d’encourager on ne sait quelle niaiserie réconfortante ni de nier les évènements douloureux de l’actualité. Plus sérieusement, il s’agit d’encourager les reporters, et à travers eux la profession, à s’intéresser à l’autre dimension du réel : initiatives, victoires sur la fatalité ou la maladie, encouragements têtus, progrès trop ignorés, démarches de paix, réconciliations durables, prouesses de toutes sortes. Afin de s’en inspirer et prendre exemple sur le meilleur de l’homme. Je rends hommage à ce journaliste qui, à travers un seul article de presse, a fait du métier que j’ai choisi le plus beau des métiers.

14 December 2009

(English) El Salvador

(English) When I was a little boy I had an atlas and I was fascinated by the little countries of the world.  I studied everything about Liechtenstein until one day I discovered El Salvador!  It was so far away and so exotic; I never imagined ever coming here and now here I am…

The country is quite charming.  On one side there is the Pacific Ocean and on the other side are Guatemala and Honduras.  Guatemala and Honduras have a strong indigenous feeling but I imagine that El Salvador has suffered many more slaughters in its history.  We arrived in the evening from Guatemala after a rather twisted path that saw us go through border controls 6 times in one day!

After events in 2 small towns we reached our destination for the night.  One thing that I have noticed ever since we left Mexico is that on every occasion the authorities play the national anthem and I find this disturbing because you see all the little children standing up putting their hands on their heart and singing.  For me this is brain washing the children.  It’s not that you shouldn’t be proud of your country; I always support England in the Football and Great Britain at the Olympics but I would never stand up for “God save the Queen”, and to put my hand on my heart for that is inconceivable.  This is all a terrible militarization of a country from my point of view.  When you instil a strong nationalism into the children it is no wonder that later on they willingly join the army and sacrifice their young lives for the concept of “nation”.

According to Luis on the base team, Voltaire said something like, “There can be no peace where there are, nations, flags and national anthems.” (can someone confirm this quote?)  To this I would also add “borders” because it’s clear that while these things exist there will be those who want to put the value of these things higher than human life and justify violence with it.

After the previous day where a monument to commemorate the World March was unveiled in Esquipulas, today we unveiled a small town Square for Peace and Nonviolence.  It was really quite special and it shows that this March is not a spontaneous thing that comes from nowhere.  People from World without Wars and the Humanist Movement have been working in this area for 10 years; building relationships with local authorities, working with local people, organising events in promotion of peace and nonviolence, etc.  The March really is an accumulation of a lot of hard work.

In the evening, Micky, Magally and I went to a local radio station to do an interview with the idea that afterwards we would go to the central event in San Salvador.  While waiting for the interview, we had the opportunity to hear from Mario about El Salvador.  This March has been an opportunity to hear about different examples of Nonviolent struggle around the World and El Salvador has a proud history.  Back in the 40s there was a military dictatorship that was brought down by a total national strike.  And more recently in the 70s and 80s Archbishop Oscar Romero fought tirelessly for the poor and oppressed during another military dictatorship.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 but murdered by gunmen in his own church in 1980.

When we arrived at the Square for the central event we were told that it had been suspended because the organising team was unable to get a sound system.  So we went over the road for something to eat.  Unfortunately no one had told either us or the people that the event was cancelled!  And while we were eating, one of the local organisers also came in to get some food and was surprised to see us there, explaining that there were many people in the square waiting for us.  So we hurriedly finished our food and went to the Square.

In the Square was a bandstand (a raised platform with a roof) and a brass band was playing and there were several rows of people sitting on chairs and we thought we’d come to the wrong place.  I had my small World March banner in my back pocket and we took it out and started to walk in the direction of the bandstand not really knowing if we were heading to people that were there for the World March or just passers-by who had stopped to listen to the music.  Suddenly as we approached, the people jumped up and started enthusiastically applauding.  It was incredible.  There were still about 40 or 50 people waiting for us and listening to the band that the authorities had organised.

There were councillors and local authorities there and they were all keen to listen to our adventures with the World March.  I was really touched by the reception.  It was totally unexpected and I had a strong feeling that these people really wanted to be there.  Many times in this leg through Central America the events have been attended by young students and I always wonder if they come because they are interested in our themes or because their teachers are.  This time though there was no doubt.  It was really a great gift to experience this event and will be one of my strongest memories from Central America.

With a big hug

Tony

13 December 2009

(English) Guatebuena – Not Guatemala (and Honduras)

(English) The day after our spectacular welcome in Tapachula we were up at 5:00am to head for the border and enter Guatemala.  Guatemala is a land of myth and magic, of Mayan culture and indigenous struggles, of beautiful landscapes and terrible violence, of abundance and exploitation.  The programme was intense so we had to split into 2 buses; I was in the first bus that was planning to spend the night in the capital, Guatemala City and the other bus was heading a few hours further East to Esquipulas.

On route we stopped and did a couple of Marches, one through the border city where we crossed the border into Tuxtla.  On this March we had Miss Guatemala accompanying us in her precarious high heals, looking beautiful and trying not to sweat too much in the heat, plus a group of drummers from Costa Rica (who you’ll hear more about later) and our new base team member, Guillermo from Argentina.  We’re gathering quite a collection of beauty queens on this March, Miss Australia 2008, Miss Czech Republic 2003 and now Miss Guatemala!

The second march was in a smaller town where we were accompanied by tens of children dressed as firemen.  Apparently the day is a special day in Guatemala, a public holiday where the children take part in civic events to support local services, in this case the fire brigade.  It was very cute, and with the drummers and the stilt walkers it had a great atmosphere.

Later on in the bus we stopped at a place called “Los Encuentros” where the local indigenous spiritual guides performed a blessing ceremony for us.  This was fascinating to watch.  There was a big fire in the centre of a patch of land and the shamans were throwing different chemicals on it to produce different smokes, different flames and different smells.  Then they started to throw the same chemicals into the encircling crowd (I don’t know if this was to make the base team more flammable or not but no one suffered any injury or burns!)  Some of our people were very moved by the scene which was made all the more strange by the dramatic mountainous landscape and the indigenous folk of the area who are very short and wearing typical clothing of the area.  We had with us a couple of great Guatemalan lads from the capital city, Gustavo and Andres, who looked like twins and clearly had some European ancestry because they towered above the indigenous guys.  They looked like giants in the land of the little people.  Even I felt tall!

Having received the protection from the indigenous friends we headed for Guatemala city.  Along the way I spoke to Camilo,  a member of the “People’s Front” a socio-political movement that doesn’t participate in elections but yet is working at the social base in a civic education project that aims to inform people better so that the population is able to make better choices at election time.  Apart from being Gustavo’s and Andres’s uncle, he is very well informed about the situation in Guatemala.

Guatemala is an incredibly rich country with an incredible inequity in distribution (I think we’ve heard this story before with other countries!)  Most of the Central American region’s food comes from here and in addition many different minerals are mined here, including gold and uranium.  Of course none, or very few, of the benefits go to the locals – surprise, surprise.  This is the biggest conflict in the country.  A few control the vast majority of the resources, discrimination against the Mayan’s is rife everywhere, and the people keep on voting for the same rotten politicians.

In the evening, we arrived in the capital to be greeted on the highway by dancing, music and hot chocolate!  Then we went to the central event for this team which was a cultural event in the city centre.  We heard the local musicians, watched a demonstration of the ancient game, Pelota – a rather strange game where you try to get a 12 kg ball through a vertical hoop about 2 metres up a wall, with points scored depending on the part of the body you use to get the ball through the hoop – and then we made a rather beautiful peace sign with candles.  I love these things – maybe I was a pyromaniac in a previous life.

We stayed overnight in a modest hotel that at least had good internet access and we slept for a few hours.  In the morning (up again at 5:00am) I got rather a shock when on the bus Rafa pointed out 3 or 4 men standing around outside the hotel.  These people were our security guards for the night.  I rather naively assumed that we’d be safe everywhere in the world, but Camilo from the People’s Front organised security for us, just in case anything bad could happen.  I’ve travelled to many, many places around the world and never has anyone organised security for me.  I’d heard about bandit attacks in Latin America in the past, and clearly with a rampant drug trade and immigrant smuggling rife you never know what could happen, but still it’s the first time on the March that I’ve felt anything apart from perfectly safe.

Once on the bus we headed for Honduras and the city of Copan.  This is just over the border from Guatemala and was our only plan for Honduras.  This is largely due to the fact that the country suffered a coup d’etat in June.  For people who don’t know the story, the President of the country was attempting to take a revolutionary path, like Morales in Bolivia and Correa in Ecuador, and call for a constituent assembly, convoking citizens to design a new constitution for the country.  Now, Zelaya organised a referendum on this subject and 2 days beforehand the Right Wing parties organised with the military to storm into his residence, bundle him onto a plane and fly him to Costa Rica at gun point!  The International community complained, the OAS passed resolutions, even Obama expressed his outrage (although if you ask any Central American and they’ll tell you that this coup happened with US blessing) but after all this they let the coup just happen.

The days before we arrived in Copan there was a new election which all of Zelaya’s supporters boycotted and of course the Right Wing won handsomely.

In Copan we were met by the people of the country; a mixture of indigenous peoples, Europeans, mestizos (those who’ve mixed between indigenous and Europeans) and, rather unexpectedly, Africans.  Apparently during the colonial days many Africans made it from the Caribbean islands to the mainland in Honduras and established a thriving colony of their own.  We were treated to African dancing and drumming, and suddenly we were transported back to another continent…

After the official welcome, we headed to the nearby Archaeological Park where the Mayan city of Copan is found.  It’s incredible.  There are pyramids and a huge complex of buildings that shows a great hub of Mayan culture which was re-discovered and recovered from the jungle that is capable of eating everything.  There are trees hundreds of years old growing out of the side of structures and literally destroying them with their massive roots systems that can break rocks as they grow down in their search for water.

Now the site is cared for, it is a UNESCO heritage site and there are archaeologists and with time, the complex is being restored.  Here we planted a tree for the World March – a local pine tree, and hopefully in hundreds of years time it will still be there for future generations to come and see the moment when human history started and pre-history was left behind.

With a big hug

Tony

P.S. There is a whole other story about Esquipulas: 2000 people waiting for the World March at 2:00am in the morning.

12 December 2009

La Marche bénie par les descendants des Mayas (Guatémala) et par les Garifundas (Honduras)

Nous faisons l’expérience de phénomènes de “sychronicité” étonnants.
Alors que nous parcourons des centaines de kilomètres en autocar avec des retards énormes pour mille raisons, nous arrivons toujours sur les lieux des événements organisés pour la Marche Mondiale à la seconde même où un rituel de bénédictions commence, où nous devons prendre le micro, où la fanfare a juste fini de chauffer ses instruments. Malgré un agenda qui change de minute en minute, des imprévus et des actions spontanées, nos passages et nos marches dans les villes et les villages s’enchaînent avec une facilité étonnante. Ce qui m’impressionne, c’est que partout, absolument partout, des milliers de gens nous attendent, souvent depuis des heures et malgré nos retards, nous accueillent les bras ouverts. Visiblement, tous se mettent au service d’une cause qui les transcende, comme nous. Ce n’est pas les marcheurs qu’ils attendent, c’est un rendez-vous d’espoir avec l’Histoire.

Souvent, notre autocar s’arrête au milieu de nulle part, dans des villages isolés. En marchant avec nos banderoles en direction du lieu de la manifestation, nous nous demandons souvent ce que nous faisons dans ce coin perdu! Et puis tout à coup, au détour d’un chemin minuscule ou derrière un coin de maison, nous tombons sur une tribune bondée de monde, une estrade décorée comme pour une soirée de gala et notre arrivée soulève des hurlements de joie et d’enthousiasme! Cela me bouleverse chaque fois de constater que sur un lieu microscopique de la planète, oublié du monde, se fête en grandes pompes une valeur universelle partagée par tous, un évènement préparé depuis des mois par les populations et les autorités locales.

Par exemple, en route pour le Honduras, notre autocar s’est arrêté au bord de la route, dans un petit village vraisemblablement pauvre du Guatémala. Comme d’habitude, nous avions docilement obéi aux organisateurs pour nous rendre “je ne sais où”… Nous déambulions entre marchands de légumes, chiens errants et salons de coiffures désuets quand nous à coup, nous sommes arrivés au milieu d’un petit champ où un groupe de villageois s’était réunis en cercle pour nous accueillir. Sans plus attendre et comme par magie, un rituel maya s’est mise en place pour protéger notre équipe et apporter plein succès à notre action. Après nous avoir aspergé d’un jus rose mystérieux et parfumé, brassé un grand feu, le chef spirituel de cette communauté a pris le micro pour déclarer que “cette action mondiale pour la paix est annoncée depuis des milliers d’années dans les Ecritures mayas et qu’elle fait partie de l’une des grandes prophéties annoncée par les Anciens”. Ni plus ni moins… Bon, on va garder les pieds sur terre et on se calme… “Votre action est porteuse d’une belle énergie” a-t-il encore ajouté avant de nous séparer. “Grand Chef Maya a parlé”, moi y en a être rassurée…

Cette journée est importante car elle marque aussi la célébration “du diable” au cours de laquelle des millions de petits feux sont allumés avec des objets qui n’ont pas ou peu été utilisés pendant l’année. Mais quand je vois ce que les habitants jettent au feu, je me dit qu’ils doivent être bien pauvres pour n’avoir à se séparer que de leurs déchets ménagers ou de bouteilles en plastique vides.

La nuit est tombée sur le Guatemala et notre bus s’arrête une nouvelle fois. Nous sommes attendus depuis des heures par d’autres sympathisants qui, sur le bord de la route, nous offrent du chocolat chaud et nous invitent à danser. 15 minutes et nous devons déjà repartir car nous sommes attendus dans la capitale par d’autres! Arrivée à Guatemala City où, nous entreprenons tardivement notre xième marche de la journée. Je ne les compte plus! C’est la seule chose que je regrette: notre agenda est tellement chargé que notre marche devient un marathon et nous ne passons plus que quelques minutes avec nos hôtes qui ont préparé notre venue depuis longtemps pourtant…

A Guatemala City, un groupe d’enfants nous reçoit avec des banderoles sur le respect des droits de l’enfant. Ils étaient d’anciens enfants-esclaves pour le compte d’une fabrique de feu d’artifices. Beaucoup d’entre eux ont été grièvement brulés. Le Père italien Carlo Sansonetti a crée un ONG pour leur venir en aide et les aider à se réinsérer dans la société. Avec sa fondation, il récolte des donations en Europe pour assurer le développement de son projet social. Je ne peux que vous recommander cet homme qui m’a fait une forte impression… Voici le site de son association.

Nous avons fini cette journée intensive par former un signe de la paix avec des bougies. La dernière image que je retiendrai avant de m’écrouler sur mon lit ce soir-là, c’est le vent qui soufflait les chandelles les unes après les autres. Et les unes après les autres, il y avait un homme, une femme ou un enfant pour la rallumer, inlassablement. Tant qu’ils y aura des hommes pour allumer de petits flammes dans l’obscurité du monde, il y aura de l’espoir et de la vie…

10 December 2009

(English) Maxixe, day 12

(English) Hello everyone!
Today early morning we left the city of Beira bound for Inhambane, specifically the city of Maxixe. Although it was a long and tiring journey and some timetable constraints, we arrive full of energy, eager to share experiences with the staff of the “land of good people”. Rosangela (member of the Humanist Movement who came from Maputo to organize events here during the passage of WM) anxiously awaiting us at the bus stop.
After we were installed in a fantastic location overlooking the sea, and had lunch and talked with the organizers  of WM here to know the exact plans of the day, we went to the venue which was a beautiful room of the Pedagogical University (the 2nd largest and oldest higher education facility here in Mozambique). The 1st part of the event was a small exhibition of photographs depicting various activities organized nationally and internationally for the WM and various explanatory materials. The expo was post ceded by several videos about the WM, which were presented by the introduction of Tania (also a member of the Humanist Movement who came from Maputo to organize events here during the passage of the WM). After the videos a short explanation on the meaning of this march and what we have learned along this route was given by the spokesperson, Samira Weng followed by a moment of interchange.
The event lasted for more / less 1h: 30 ‘
Toward the end of the day we had a dinner with local delicacies while we planned for tomorrow.

Photos:

http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/EastSouthernAfricaRouteDay12Maxixe
Hugs
Carla, Rui, Ivo, Samira, Marta, Mauro, Rosângela and Tânia.