One Year

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A year ago, I officially moved to the city and started my new job. A year ago, Jorge Montes was arrested. A year ago, I met Jhonatan Vargas on a quick work trip to Barrancabermeja. A year ago, I visited the Canadian embassy and wrote letters to try to resolve our visa situation.

Sept 2013 020
Jhonatan and his mother, Maria

Many things can happen in the course of a year.

On Tuesday, our visa case was officially closed.  I am now the proud owner of thick legal document with my name peppered throughout giving me permission to stay in Colombia. Throughout the week, I was bombarded with mixed feelings. I should be happy to live without the uncertainty of deportation peering over my shoulder, yet it feels like the end of an era. It is official: I no longer live on the Coast, I no longer interact with communities, I no longer walk shoulder to shoulder down the highway chanting for reparations while drinking tiny cups of coffee. In a way that I am ashamed to admit, I feel boring. I go to the office, I stare at a screen, I come home to all of my urban comforts. 

This Monday (today), Sembrandopaz and the communities they accompany in the Montes de Maria will form a human chain 1000 people long  to nonviolently make visible the fact that Jorge has now been in jail, without a trial, for a year. They will also demand that the governmental and institutional commitments made after the march last year will be carried out. It is hard to go to the office like usual, while my heart continues to beat at the pace of the  movement in the Montes de Maria.


On Thursday night, I recieved a message that Jhonatan  had been arrested for going AWOL. When I first met Jhonatan last September, he had just refused to go back to the base after receiving home leave. He was soft spoken and shy, but firm in his convictions that he did not want to train to kill or kill itself. Although a publicly declared conscientious objector, he is currently being held at a military base in Barrancabermeja waiting for a military trial. All day Friday we worked on action alerts and the weekend has been filled with Twitter and Facebook.

First Jorge. Now Jhonatan. Boring is underrated and what feels like routine is rather practice for the unexpected: trust building, network forming, availability, and context familiarity. I felt so comfortable living my new urban life  that I had forgotten that anything can happen and that my job is to pay attention.

Jean Vanier, in his Massey lecture, states: “To live well is to observe in today’s apparent order the tiny anomalies that are the seeds of change, harbingers of the order of tomorrow. This means living in a state of certain insecurity.” Jorge, the Montes de Maria, Jhonatan. To me, these are people and movements that speak of a future with the power to be different.  My job is not to be the hero, but to share about and support these seeds and the resistance they face.july 2014 222

So, it has been a year. I am positive that there will be many boring moments in the twelve months ahead. I hope that both Jorge and Jhonatan will be free, that the inhabitants of the Montes de Maria will be guaranteed lives with dignity. And I also hope that I have the courage and the forethought to look beyond my daily routine to see the world around me and use this time to prepare for the unexpected.

Consider supporting seeds of change. Read our action alert about Jhonatan, send in a letter and spread #freeJhonatan and #liberenaJhonatan on your social media.


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