Oscar's Story

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Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Oscar was born in Medellín and is a member of the Medellín Network for Conscientious Objection (Tejido por Objecion de Conciencia de Medellín). He is also a leader ofMedellín's Mennonite Peace Church social action group and the secretary of the Medellín Network of Peace Churches, as well as being a nonviolent activist and a restorative justice facilitator at two detention centres in Medellín. Here, he gives us an account of working in Colombia's conscientious objection movement on the grounds of his Mennonite interpretation of Christianity.

For many people, Christianity is synonymous with ecclesiastical hierarchy, the Crusades, economic exploitation, dark alliances with sectors of the far right, and other phenomena of the kind. That branch of the Church which has worked for justice and dignity over the course of centuries, and which has assumed a historic commitment to resisting any kind of oppression, in the name of Jesus, has been rendered invisible. In this branch of the Church however, we have been steadfastly promoting the struggle for the protection of human rights, the environment, all forms of life, and dignity as the most important property of every human being, considering God the primary interested party in this struggle, based on our interpretation of Jesus' summary of the Ten Commandments: 'Love God above all things and your neighbour as yourself'.

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Alba Milena Romero Sanabria is a political scientist at the National University of Colombia. She has worked for the recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service for ten years, alongside participating in nonviolence training processes. She is a member of Asociación Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ACOOC, Conscientious Objectors' Collective Action) and Conscience and Peace Tax International. Her co-author Andreas Speck is originally from Germany, were he refused military and substitute service in the 1980s. He has been involved in the environmental, anti-nuclear and antimilitarist movements ever since. From 2001 until 2012 he worked for War Resisters' International (WRI) and today lives in Spain. Together, they use the example of Colombia to illustrate how international human rights mechanisms can be put to use in local cases, and in combination with other tactics, when campaigning for the right to conscientious objection.

On the international level, the right to Conscientious Objection (CO) has been on the political agenda of the UN General Assembly, the Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, the Human Rights Commission, and other UN institutions.1 In addition, the right is addressed by other international institutions, especially the inter-American and European systems.2 At the same time, different movements have implemented strategies to try to prioritise within states' agendas the recognition of the right to conscientious objection.

Up to now, Colombia’s response to the pandemic - the Common Enemy - has been one of a familiar nationalist and militarist rhetoric, a staunchly-upheld, militarized response that is unfolding in Colombia’s towns and cities.

In February of this year, we sent out a CO-Alert of a Colombian Conscientious Objector, Brayan Gonzalez, who was irregularly recruited by the Army. His CO application wasn't recognised by the military Interdisciplinary Commission. To avoid being charged for desertion, he decided to come back to the battalion. He continues refusing inside the battalion. Read Brayan's story and consider sending the support letter. 

In response to the many known cases of sexual abuse and harassment of women by members of the armed forces and the police in different places in Colombia, at the end of July, the Colombian vice-president Martha Lucía Ramirez held a meeting with the Defence Ministry and the Military Forces. During this meeting, the Vice-president proposed the inclusion and recruitment of women as a strategy that could prevent violence against women by members of the military and police forces.

The German arms company Sig Sauer has announced it intends to close its arms factory in Eckernförde by the end of year. The company blamed "locational handicaps" and the German military and police preferring a "few other local producers".

We have launched the CO book in its Spanish edition. On February 20th we held a launching event in Bogotá where we reflected on the book's content and discussed about all the ways we can object and resist war.

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