15 May - International Conscientious Objectors' Day
Last year, the Colombian conscientious objection movement organised an international conference on solidarity with CO in Colombia, which marked the coming together of a range of CO groups in Colombia, and the strengthening of national coordination among these groups (see co-update No 22, August 2006). Based on this new strength, the National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors started a process to create a national and international support network for conscientious objection in Colombia. International Conscientious Objectors' Day 2007 -- 15 May -- is part of this process. But while this one-off international event in Medillín is important because of the visibility it provides to the movement for conscientious objection in Colombia, more important will be ongoing support. In cooperation with the National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors, War Resisters' International is presently setting up a database of COs in Colombia (available at https://lists.wri-irg.org/codb), and an international solidarity network. And 15th May will also see the public launch of the "Libreta objetor/a de conciencia" -- WRI's conscientious objector card, which will be a visible symbol of conscientious objection as an internationally recognised human right.
In some way, the libreta objetor/a de conciencia is a form of "virtual accompaniment", similar to the physical accompaniment Peace Brigades International tries to provide to some threatened human rights activists in Colombia (and elsewhere). However, all this can only work with a strong solidarity network, that reacts quickly to attempts to recruit or arrest a conscientious objector. While the National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors and WRI will attempt to distribute information as quickly and widely as possible whenever a conscientious objector is in danger, this information needs to be acted upon as fast and widely, to have an impact on the Colombian authorities.
International Conscientious Objectors' Day is about solidarity with COs and CO movements. There are only a few countries where this is as urgently needed than in Colombia, and we as war resisters need to stand up to the challenges posed by this specific situation. We know from experience that international solidarity can make a difference, and in the case of Colombia this is even more important, and requires our concerted efforts. And who, if not us?
More information is available on WRI's Colombia campaign page at /co/colcampaign-en.htm.