Between the 16th and 19th of November 2010, the Sixth “Meeting of Builders of Peace and Reconciliation” took place in the community of San Salvador, autonomous municipality of Francisco Villa. The event was organized and facilitated by brothers and sisters from the area of Zapata, in the Estrella region of Ocosingo, with the support of the the Commission of Support for Unity and Community Reconciliation (CORECO). It brought together 268 people (220 men and 48 women) arriving from 74 communities and 17 municipalities in Chiapas, such as Tenejapa, Ocosingo, Bachajón, Chamula and the autonomous municipalities of Francisco Villa and San Manuel. The participants belonged to 26 different civil and social organizations, including Pueblo Creyente (Community of Faith), the Other Campaign, the Organization of Relatives of Prisoners of Ocosingo, the Rural Association of Collective Interest – Independent and Democratic (ARIC-ID) and the Rural Association of Collective Interest – Historical (ARIC-Historical).
The event served as a forum for reflection for women and men that are engaged in conflict mediation and peacebuilding activities in their communities. The participants valued as a key result of the previous meetings the exchange of knowledges and stories that they are able to share in their communities afterwards. To know that ‘they are not alone in the struggle for a fairer world and that, on the contrary there are many people organized in different regions of Chiapas” helped to cheer them up to go on with this struggle. As mentioned by Jose Alfredo Gordillo Martínez from Comitan: “I participate in this meeting for the first time and I came alone from my community, but arriving here I do not feel alone at all.” “Learning from other’s work helps us to organize ourselves better”, said Joan Santiz Hernández, president of the Organization of Relatives of Prisoners of Ocosingo: “The meeting helps to open up the thinking, because we are still a bit lost [… ] it teaches us many ideas. ” Another important result is the increased participation of women in the meetings. In the first event of this kind 6 years ago only men participated. Now women and men participated not only in the preparation of the event, but also in its realisation.
The cultural values of their ancestors was a recurring theme in the working groups and plenary sessions. Many people expressed concern about the loss of these values and the desire to recover them. During a plenary session, the group from the Highlands of Chiapas shared: “Just as our ancestors built the peace by peaceful means, the builders of reconciliation now build the bridge that leads to peace, a place where problems can be solved peacefully.” The recovery of local varieties of maize, traditional medicine and respect for Mother Earth in the same way as their ancestors did were also valued as necessary.
To draw attention to the situation in prisons, a member of the Organization of Relatives of Prisoners of Ocosingo, on the second day, shared the contents of a letter sent on September 30 to the State Government stating their concern about the problems within the prison of Ocosingo. The organization calls for a respectful manner to treat visiting relatives and fair legal proceedings for the prisoners.
During a pleany session, Jorge Santiago, president of the CORECO, suggested five steps to follow to move forward in building peace. He emphasized that in Chiapas the core of the conflicts are government programs. He also mentionned that we need to analyze what are the interests of the different parties in the conflict, including our own: “Sometimes we can be clear about what the others want, but we do not know what we want. Taken into account our own position, it is important to ask ourselves what are our interests? ” Similarly, he stressed the richness that comes from the diversity of peoples, languages, cultures and religions: “The difference between us is an asset. The challenge is to see how we join together our differences to make a single force. “
Aside from the working groups and plenary sessions that took place, there were also spaces for community activities. To cheer us up in times of fatigue, several creative dynamics, songs and short exercises were proposed. Every day the meeting began with a prayer before the Mayan Maya which was assembled during the welcoming ceremony the first day. Meal times were opportunities for people to talk and exchange experiences, and at night, the bodies and souls could relax dancing with live music. Matthew Mendoza Díaz, a member of the organizing committee was happy with the way the event developed: “I am pleased with the participation of people, all were very active. The difference from 2007 when the event was in this same region Estrella is that there is now much more participation of women, and young men and women. We leave here with the heart stronger”.
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