Since 2019 the South American country has been experiencing protests against the choices of the current government. Daniel, a young man from the Focolare Movement, tells us about their commitment to peaceful solutions to tensions.
What is happening in Colombia? The country is experiencing strong tensions between the forces of order and its citizens. There are protests against the choices of the current government which – according to the protesters – is implementing policies that increase inequality. To understand what is happening, we interviewed Daniel Osorio, one of the Focolare Movement’s Youth for a United World in Colombia.
What is the current situation in your country?
Since 2019 there have been mass protests in Colombia that question the work of the government. They are mainly provoked by dissent over government policies and the need for free public education, but not only that. Among the reasons for the protests is the excessive use of force by the authorities against civilians, at times a matter of massacres. The protesters are calling for the intervention of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to verify the many cases of alleged violations. There have been many injuries and victims in recent years, some statistics: from 2016 to 2020, 971 murders of human rights defenders and leaders were recorded.
In particular, in May 2021, tensions increased because of the tax reform bill that would hit the fragile middle class and the weakest social strata who suffered most from the economic impact of the pandemic. The protests resulted in a nationwide strike involving over 5 million people. And while most of the protests were peaceful and cultural, there were also some acts of vandalism and a violent repression by the state that resulted in casualties.
What role do social media play in making the world aware of what you are experiencing?
Thanks to the influence of social media, the ease of generating audio visual content and the large amount of information circulating, people can be aware of what is happening in our country. However, sometimes it is difficult to be sure of the reliability and truthfulness of the content replicated in digital spaces.
On the other hand, the widespread use of social networks facilitates the dissemination of content that alerts everyone to the demands of protesters, but also to reports of human rights violations, helping to have an increasingly complete and real picture of what is happening.
What are the Focolare community and Youth for a United World doing in this situation?
When the protests began, as Youth for a United World, we felt a great helplessness in the face of the actual episodes of violence and at the same time we felt a strong desire to be able to do something concrete.
We started immediately with three actions:
- On a local level, we created a virtual space where everyone could express what they felt, intended as a means of sharing and receiving new proposals and ideas.
- We launched a video on our social networks to make visible and encourage peaceful and cultural protests, certain that this is the way, and not violence, to change the situation in the country.
- We are creating infographics – disseminating through social networks – to reach as many people as possible in Colombia and around the world, explaining the background to the protests, the current situation in our country, but also sending a message of hope, communicating the importance of being united as a country, as a people, as a society and as a world.
How do you see your future and that of Colombia?
In spite of the difficult situation, I feel that there is hope, because the reason why we are protesting and talking is precisely this: we believe that Colombia and the world, with more justice, equity and unity, can be better places to live.