© Sara Cameron   Links | Terms and conditions

Out of War The conflict Juan Elias Louisa Ines Brenda Yudi Child's Play War Talk Reviews The mandate  Map Colombia Sara Cameron McBean Bangladesh   Brazil   Colombia   India   Iraq   Kenya   Nepal   Papua New Guinea   Senegal   Sudan   Tanzania

Ages quoted refer to the ages of the children when the statement was made

Farlis, 17 years

I never speak out against any particular group. If I did then I know I could become a target. Once, a journalist tried to trick me into saying things that were dangerous, just to get a story. He would have sacrificed me for that. All the children in the peace movement know that they must be careful about what they say. This is not difficult. When you live with fear, silence is natural. We describe the violence but we do not know who is responsible for these terrible events….….I dream that one day I will wake up and my father will go to work and I will not have the fear that he will be in danger, that he will be shot. This is the dream I am trying to build, that we are all trying to build.

Wilfrido, 16 years The children don’t take sides in the conflict. They are too frightened. When the fighting begins they run and hide. They don’t look to see who is doing the shooting. They just pray for it to stop. Recently, during Holy Week, two children were caught in crossfire near the school, and were killed.

Iván, 13 years In 1993, when I was 8 years old I was walking in the street in San Bernando with my aunt and we were caught in the middle of a battle between the guerrillas and the army. The guerrillas were attacking the mayor’s office I think. We were trapped and could not get away. One of the guerrillas, a woman, took us and protected us while the fight was going on, but I was very frightened. I thought they were going to kill us. There were 5 other children killed that day. By accident I think.

Juan Elias, 16 years At first, when my father was murdered, I thought that all the work I was doing for peace was worth nothing because it had not saved him. Yet my father had always wanted me to work for peace and I did not want other children to share the nightmare of losing someone they loved so much. In the end, my father’s death pushed me harder and gave me a more realistic attitude towards peace. I know this work can be dangerous but if they did not stop me when my father was alive, they can do nothing to stop me now.

Judy, 17 years They kill young people here, just for being out on the street. A car pulls up and they shoot from the window then drive away. They kill the young people because they think they are all delinquents and drug addicts. It is not true. Some are just young people with nothing to do who are out on the street to try and have some fun. A few years ago there was a lot of this kind of killing and it still goes on. I do not want to die like that. There is nothing for young people here. There are no jobs and our families cannot afford to send us to the University. Some go and join the guerrillas. I know one boy who did that. He was crazy but that is what he did.

I know one boy who is my age and thinks of nothing but revenge. Both his parents were killed. He saw it. They were cut to pieces. He is the oldest of many children in that family and he thinks it is his duty to kill his parent’s killers. Most people here think that if you are hit once, you must hit back double. Wilfrido, 15 years

Miguel, 6 years A paramilitary is a soldier who stopped being a soldier but still carried on with the war.

Name Withheld, 16 years It is easy to identify the paramilitaries because they carry rapid-fire weapons, the same as the armed forces. They always travel in groups and are usually young - from 17 to 23 years old. Very rich old men finance these groups to protect their property. The guerrillas are much harder to identify. They blend in and sometimes visit people who do not realize that the person they are talking to is a guerrilla - but the paramilitaries know who the guerrillas are and they attack the families that the guerrillas have visited.

Name withheld, 16 years The paramilitaries come into the classroom when school is in session. They look through the teacher’s notebooks and lesson plans. Groups of them sleep there at night. They even come into the church carrying their weapons. Children as young as 12 and 13 are with them. Some of them can hardly carry the weapons they have been given. It is pathetic.

Name Withheld, 15 years Nowadays, there is an apparent normality to life and even tranquillity but this tranquillity is not real. It is true that things used to be much worse. When we walked down the street we used to be afraid that a bullet would come suddenly and end our lives. There were also many thieves and a lot of common delinquency. We do not have this now because the paramilitaries control everything, but they became the new delinquents because they abuse their power. They murder. They steal. If they suspect a family has a connection to the guerrillas, they kill the family. They kill the children. Sometimes, they kill only the father, but when they kill your father they kill a part of a child’s life.

Name withheld, age 16 When I was ten years old I thought about becoming a guerrilla because they said you could get a lot of money that way. My family is very poor so it looked like being a guerrilla was a good idea. Some of my friends joined and they were killed so I decided not to join the war because I cannot help my family if I am dead. When I see the armed groups coming to recruit I run home and get in my bed and pretend to be asleep so that they cannot get me.

Marta, 12 years Near my home there is a riverbank. One day I saw bodies of children lying there. They were killing children. Why? Why would they do this? They were innocent. They could not harm anyone. That is when I decided to become a Peace Constructor. I heard about it from my friend and we went to the meeting together.

Jaime, 17 years I have been working for peace for two years and am very glad that the army has stopped forcing children under the age of 18 to fight. But my problems have only been delayed for a while. If the war continues then after I am 18 I might be drafted into the army. I don’t know what I shall do because I don’t believe the war is a solution to anything. In this country if the army says you must join up, it is not possible to object.

Juan Elias, 16 years On the day of the Children’s Mandate there was peace in Colombia. If there can be one day of peace, why not a week, a month, a year, fifty years? Why not fifty years of peace to make up for our fifty years of war?

Dilia, 12 years On the day of the vote I went with my family to Bolivar Square in Bogotá. There was a great “fiesta” going on with clowns and jugglers. I joined a long line of children waiting to vote. When it was my turn they asked me my name, my school and wrote this down in a book. They showed me the ballot and asked if I understood it. I said I did, so I took the ballot and put my mark over the right to peace. Peace is most important because without it you cannot have any of the other rights.

Mayerly, 14 years Farlis, Juan Elias and myself went to Panama to talk to UNICEF staff from other countries about the Children’s Movement for Peace in Colombia. We appeared on television in Panama. The TV station was going to let us talk for ten minutes but once we started they just kept the camera running. They held up the commercials and the other programmes and we spoke for more than forty minutes. We had no script. We described our communities and our lives and we said that the children of Colombia are trying to make peace so that the children in Panama do not have to suffer as we have done.

Lelis, 13 years I sometimes take part in workshops of the Children’s Movement for Peace. There are so many children who come there from different places. They seem so strong, so well organized and well-trained. They know what they are doing. They talk well. They have good ideas. I am so impressed. That is what I want to be like. I want to join in like them.

Mayerly, 14 years There were some young people living in my community who were having a very difficult time with the police. They were always having confrontations and did not think they were being fairly treated. So they arranged by themselves to have a meeting with the police to talk over their problems. It was very successful. It not only made life much easier for them, it changed everyone involved. It changed the police and the young people - who then started talking to other gangs in our community and encouraging them to change too.

Wilfrido, 16 years I work as a volunteer play therapist with children who have been forced to leave their homes because of the war. Some of the children have seen terrible things, like seeing their father be tortured and killed. They find it very difficult to understand what happened. We play together with the trucks, and boats and rag dolls and sometimes after that you can figure out what went on. Some of the children are very shy but I give them the parrot puppet and sometimes they tell him things. They often talk about the goats and chickens and cows they left behind when they left their homes. They worry about the animals.

Mayerly, 14 years I think the reason why children’s views on the war have such a powerful effect on adults is because of our sincerity. Adults read the newspapers and listen to the news but they sometimes doubt what they are told. When they listen to children talk about violence and peace, they know they are hearing the truth. Juan Elias, 17 years

People never used to care about the war unless they were directly affected by it, but when children talk about pain and sorrow we make adults feel the pain as if it was their own. Children are the seeds of the new Colombia. We are the seeds that will stop the war.

Farlis, 18 years My family tells me that I have to be careful with peace work. It is very good for us to do it, because it helps our community, but they tell me to make sure my peace activities are not political. I do not take sides in the war. I just want to help other children who have been hurt by it. Unfortunately, I have received death threats and I may have to leave my home for a while. Name withheld, 16 years

It is better to do something for peace, then if I am killed at least it will be over something worth dying for. It is better to die for something than for nothing, isn’t it?

Juan Elias, 17 years In Colombia it is sometimes dangerous to work for peace but I am not afraid for myself. I am concerned only for the suffering my family will go through if anything happens to me.

Angelica, 13 years Without equal education children who have nothing can never have the same opportunities as those who have everything.

Mayerly, 14 years There are many wars in Colombia. There is the war between the armed forces, the guerrillas and the paramilitaries but there is another war that takes place on the streets, and another that takes place inside families, when parents mistreat their children. We need to make peace in the home and on the streets as well as among the armed groups…..Peace begins with yourself, with the way you treat your family, your friends, your communities, your country - but it does not stop there. Peace that begins in the hearts of children can cover the whole world.

Gloria, 16 years My mother sometimes tells me, “You know, there is a lot more to life than all this peace and rights stuff.” She thinks it takes up too much of my time but I cannot think of anything else that is more important.


War talk, peace talk