For this piece, I wish to avoid the debate between 'yes' and 'no' which has separated the Colombian population for years. I don’t see the need to increase divisions; we cannot end a conflict caused by segregation with polarisation and hate. The people who voted 'yes' had the intention of giving the country a new beginning of reconciliation with peace, and those who voted 'no' didn’t vote against peace, but for the same peace but with better conditions. They both have valid arguments, and they both must be respected.
When I was a kid, I saw many things that made me angry: the news, seeing people tied to trees with chains, images of explosions, growing inequality, war and polarisation. Over time, I have learned that this anger could be translated into action. Instead of suppressing our anger, we all must be able to face it and talk about our reality. The worst thing that could happen is silence. There are topics that are difficult to address but as One Young World Counsellor Maajid Nawaz said, “If we don’t have these conversations, the only alternative is violence.” This applies perfectly to Colombian reality.
While the government and FARC continue the peace process, the Colombian population has ignited a conversation with the aim of replacing violence. The outcome of the election has presented an incredible opportunity; since October 2nd, the conversation has not only involved the government and FARC, but also other sectors that were not included during the initial process, particularly Colombia’s youth. Colombians have shown the world how to react democratically to a conflict with massive movements promoting unity and hope. Hopefully this is just the start of a conversation that will eventually lead us to a peaceful society.
For me, real peace is possible if the whole country is united and listens to each other without any bias and without taking into account their personal past. When it comes to peace building dialogue, revisiting past experiences may do more damage than good; it limits our capacity to listen to things objectively.
There will be peace in Colombia when people have enough resources to live with dignity and access to quality education. It is crucial for Colombians to be given the resources to think critically about our country. If we raise our voices, the government cannot turn a blind eye to us. In particular, Millennials must be active because they are in charge of Colombia’s future.
It was once insane to think involving young people in government affairs would be possible, but look at what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done with the Youth Council. This gives me hope that one day, Colombia may become an example of youth inclusion as a mechanism of conflict resolution.
I invite you to have objective conversations that allow us all to build a new future, not just for Colombia but also for the world. Let’s prove that we can do better, especially by matching what we preach with what we do in our daily lives. Let’s work together and construct sustainable peace based on justice and equality.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind”, so let’s avoid worldwide blindness and start looking for solutions that don’t include violence.
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Felipe González Andersen is a One Young World Ambassador representing Colombia. He is the Director Ya Tengo Donde Escribir (Now I Have Somewhere to Write on), a social project which creates notebooks with unused notebook pages and cereal boxes for children with little means. Over the last four years, they have delivered more than 20,000 notebooks to children across Colombia.