With their graduation certificates in hand, 41 participants in the conflict, both ex-combatants and victims shouted long live peacein unison”. This took place at the end of a seven-day intensive training program given by the Leadership for Peace Academy (Alapaz for its acronym in Spanish) – part of the School of Government at the Universidad de los Andes and the Fundación Compaz.
Alapaz is an emotional journey that gives participants tools so they can develop leadership skills and become multipliers of sustainable peace in the regions most affected by the conflict.
In her graduation speech, María Alejandra Ramírez said, “We leave having learned to transform pain and to forgive. Here we have laughed again, taken a close look at ourselves, and because of this we are going home with a great responsibility on our shoulders”.
Participants attended seventy hours of workshops, talks, activities, and even yoga and biodanza sessions. In this edition of the Alapaz program, leaders from Bogotá, Meta, Tolima, and Cundinamarca took part: these are people who day-in-day-out work to solve conflicts and improve their community’s quality of live.
The director of the School of Government, María Margarita Zuleta, highlighted the work with leaders from the regions as a tool to generate wellbeing: “To fight for your own rights, you need to be able to recognize other people’s rights. This is how our individual actions have an impact on our communities and how we build peace” she said.
This program was supported by the Center for Public Leadership – part of the School of Government. This center endeavors to generate conscious leadership skills, “which, when effective, create communities that learn and work together”, assured the academics. Alapaz was also supported by the GIZ – the German International Cooperation Centre.
From CityU’s Séneca Tower, Fabio Torres, who is leader of the victims in the Meta department, said that he felt like a university student again. But the difference was, this time, as well as learning, he had also come to teach about the experiences of conflict and the resilience of people living in the countryside.
“I am leaving here with a very important tool: knowing how to forgive and understand that we are all equal. We have found peace to keep building”, said Torres.
The students’ graduation was attended by Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, who is also founder of the Compaz foundation. The ex-president affirmed that the most difficult part of a peace process is reconciliation and assured that these processes continue to show the country that, just like a cathedral, peace is built brick-by-brick.
Luz Aída Angulo from Barbacoas (Nariño) agreed that, “Those of us who have lived the conflict know that we prefer incomplete peace that complete war. We come here to heal, to keep building for women and for the Afro-Colombian population.”
Joined by her family on graduation day, Rosa Evelia Poveda smiled and commented to her classmates that the pain of conflict she carries within her keeps getting smaller. “This was, without doubt, a space for reflection, but above all, it was a space for healing. That’s why I am leaving a changed person and will keep on contributing”, said Poveda.