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FALL, 2001: Volume 6, Issue 3

Excerpts from Searching for Kimy: A Personal Account by Julia Graff

Note: Internationals from a number of groups accompanied the Embera-Katío in their search for Kimy Pernía Domicó. Among them was Julia Graff from Witness For Peace (WFP). The following excerpts are from Witness for Peace Newsletter, Summer 2001.

…Because of the risks involved, [the Embera-Katío] invited us to participate as accompaniers. They asked us, as international observers, to walk along side them, and after careful reflection, we accepted. This is, after all, what it means to be in solidarity with God’s people—to share a portion of their pain, to assume some of their risks, and to live and trust and doubt and love right along with them. The idea was that the paramilitaries might not retaliate if foreign observers were present, since the international community would be more involved. Unfortunately, this reflects the fact that we live in a world that values the lives of US citizens more than it values the lives of Colombian indigenous people. Still, there are no guarantees in this chaotic and unpredictable war, and we knew that when we got on the plane.

When we arrived to the town that would be the organizational hub of the march, we found that 800 indigenous people from all over the country had already arrived and set up camp in the town square. Some had traveled two days by bus to participate in the search of a brother they had never met.

We marched under the oppressive sun for six hours straight on Saturday, but Sunday was declared a rest day to allow the swollen feet of the barefoot women to recuperate. Surprisingly, there were no threatening incidents while we were there, but neither was Kimy returned to us.

In the middle of the paramilitary stronghold, we laid down each night under a common tarp on a common pavement, with 800 brothers and sisters. I’m sure we uttered 800 similar prayers: “Please let Kimy be alive, please protect us from harm in the night, and please give us strength for the march.” And we slept in the middle of uncertainty, with no walls and no locks, only our faith to give us good rest. Despite all the rumors, despite the fear and the terror all around us, there was an incredible spirit of unity and common purpose.

By the third day, I had made friendships, and smiles greeted me in all directions. Everywhere I looked, I saw enormous courage and faith to move mountains. What else but faith allows one to leave her land and meager earnings for two weeks to travel with small children to an unknown region in order to confront a powerful evil? What else but an extraordinary sense of community and brotherhood moves 800 people to unite in a non-violent act of solidarity and sacrifice?

…But mostly, I will remember that God never asks us take it all on ourselves, that just when we feel most powerless; we need to rely on our community at all levels. Community implies commitment and responsibility to one another, it implies support and sacrifice.

For more information contact:

Witness for Peace, 1229 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
tel: (202) 588-1471; fax: (202) 588-1472
e-mail: witness@witnessforpeace.org
website: www.witnessforpeace.org

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