BUILDING THE DEFENSES OF PEACE, ITUANGO, COLOMBIA
Here is a blog I’ve written about a documentary we are making for The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF) and their Peace Education Program. This program in Colombia is helping people recover in places where war has been present – Marian Masoliver, film maker, teacher and director at The Actors Space.
After 7 hours of winding and slow roads with spectacular mountain views we arrive at our destination late into the night…
Ituango is a village hanging in the lap of a mountain range, indeed in the mountainous region of Antioquia, in deep Colombia. Dark streets (noticeably the electricity here is less present than in the valleys) and rain meet us, the weary travelers.
At dawn this tiny village is already buzzing with life, cowboys riding their horses, endless trucks carrying all sorts of materials, the ‘Jaidukama’, indigenous people that bring incredible color to the village (it takes two walking days to travel to their farms they tell us), and the ‘chivas’, local buses that go as far as there are roads into the wilderness, for the rest of their journey home people travel by mule.
It all creates a wonderful, powerful and rich tapestry of life, full of sound, color and joy.
We spent 4 nights in Ituango. If I had not known what has happened here I would never have guessed. The “Ituanguinos” are very kind, generous people.
But, unlike the urban cities of Colombia, this village has experienced the cruelty of war. Because of it’s geographical position the village has been used and abused for decades by both the guerrilla and the paramilitary, both fighting for power over coca production and drug trafficking.
Our small team from the TPRF are here to run The Peace Education Program (PEP) in the village school. Because of the difficulty getting here PEP is run as an introductory intensive program over three days. What get’s revealed after the three day program is shocking: the terrible reality of war and the thirst for help are so palpable…
And then there is Prem Rawat and his Peace Education program.
“I felt strange, it was like another me. For the first time in my life I have felt Peace and Fulfilment, I have been looking for this for 12 years” says Mercedes, a 15 years old student that attended PEP.
“What Mr, Prem Rawat is doing is an act of altruism. I would like to invite him to sit with victims and perpetuators, we all need to hear his message…there is no enemy because it is our friends and families that have been involved, this war has affected us all…” says a teacher that participated in the program.
I am also blown away by the clarity and wisdom that three 16 years old girls express during the interviews “Peace is within us, and for Peace to manifest in the community we first need to feel it as individuals. We need PEP for our families, for the community, we have all suffered too much.”
We also have the chance to interview the school director who tells us the crude facts of the war that she has had to survive. “PEP was a big thing for us, it was wonderful… we’ve been alone, without any help to heal, the teachers need help so they can teach well, their mental and emotional health need attention. PEP can help a lot. We are experts of war but we do not know about Peace…”.
At night, the “Rancheras” play loudly in every tavern, the streets are full of young people, couples, kids and families…
The only ‘disturbance’ for us is the van that wakes us up very morning at 5am announcing the 5:30h mass for the villagers on loud speakers.
But it is also clear that faith has helped these people in times where there was nothing else to hold onto.
And as we say goodbye I feel the sadness of the people, they express that they want to learn more from Prem Rawat.
The will of this people to prosper, in the middle of such difficulty, to go forward and the insistence of Joy itself after the darkest times has made a powerful impact on me.
See related blog From Fiction to Facts
Marian Masoliver from Ituango, Colombia.