A TWENTY-FIVE YEAR-OLD BRUNCH
On a sunny spring Sunday morning in 1987, Jack Laun, Cecilia Zárate – Laun and Joe Swajza met for brunch at Madison’s Ivy Inn, which went out of business several years ago, to talk about Colombia, a country the three of them hold very dear to their hearts. Although coming from different backgrounds, the three agreed on one recurrent topic: the lack of knowledge and activism in the United States about the terrible social, political, economic and human rights situation in Colombia.
Jack and Cecilia had been to Nicaragua some months before, while Jack visited as an invited guest of Carlos Nuñez, one of the nine Sandinista Commandantes and President of the National Assembly, to advise them on the process of writing their new constitution. Jack had studied constitutional law under Professor Gerald Gunther at Stanford Law School, drawing from his law school experience an abiding interest in constitutional protections and rights for all people. While we were engaged in this activity in Nicaragua, the M-19 guerrillas assaulted the Palace of Justice in Bogotá, killing the sentries on duty at the building. When the Colombian Army retook the building with a tremendous show of force, most of the Justices of the Supreme Court and hundreds of other persons, including the building’s cafeteria workers, were killed or “disappeared”. Cecilia met some Colombians in Managua, who made her think deeply when they commented that activism for Nicaragua was fine, but what about Colombia? Later on, now back in the States, Cecilia received a long list of names, including those of friends, sent to her by a dear friend who lived in New York City. On this worrisome list were names of friends branded to be killed as enemies of the institution, whatever that meant, and Cecilia noted with horror that some of the names were already marked as “task completed”.
Jack remembered his time as a professor at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota and his research projects. Cecilia recalled her life with her family and friends and her teaching at the National University. Joe had been a Peace Corps Volunteer and immensely enjoyed Colombia, with its great beauty and the warmth of its people, in spite of the political violence. Above all, both Jack and Joe admired the stamina and courage of so many Colombians who were determined to keep fighting for their rights even though so many of their colleagues and companions had fallen as anonymous heroes.
They decided to start an organization that would focus on monitoring United States foreign policy toward Colombia. Its main goal was to incorporate the U.S. peace community and the American people into an effort to monitor how their Members of Congress voted on Colombian issues from their electoral districts. Monitoring Congress and demanding the right to be heard is a citizen’s duty and keeps a democracy representative, failing which it fades and becomes a mock representative of the people.
However, Cecilia, Jack and Joe realized that in order to be moved to action, people need to have their heart strings touched. They need to feel compassion for the people of Colombia. This is why from its conception Colombia Support Network (CSN) adopted the idea of developing sister community relationships between cities and regions in the U.S. and Colombian rural communities in areas of conflict. Not only are the Colombian communities an inspiration and offer a lot to learn from them, but they are a tool to make our democracy and theirs more vibrant!
CSN sees the war in Colombia from the perspective of people in rural communities who are not famous or well-known, but who have developed grass-roots community organizations in which people, exhausted by years of war, decided to protest yes, but using non-violence. They are united by a common strategy: to bring change in the country through organizing and to act as a unified body with a common goal: to live in a Colombia with peace!
The brunch continues……………Now we invite you to celebrate our first 25 years by looking through our new web site. We extend our deep gratitude to Professor David Thomas, our webmaster, who has generously donated countless hours to this project and to Tracy Apps for her superb professional web design skills.
Please be generous – Support our work! Click "Make a donation" from our home page: http://www.colombiasupport.net
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
Phone: (608) 257-8753
Fax: (608) 255-6621