SAN JOSE DE ORIENTE, Colombia – In hopes that this will be the first of many Christmas seasons to be enjoyed in peace, families of former FARC guerrillas gathered Saturday in the village of San Jose de Oriente in northern Colombia to begin the Yuletide celebrations.
Some 200 adults and children, including FARC chiefs, came together on the old country roads where they laid down their arms, to meet with people from the communities of Mirador and Tierra Grata, and with Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace Rodrigo Rivera, to pray the Christmas novena.
“We meet for a very beautiful and festive season, and this year’s in particular will be a Christmastime without violence, without noises that upset us, everybody living happily together,” the little 10-year-old girl Mayerli Sanchez said.
Saturday’s celebration for the holiday season is the first in which members of the former guerrilla group have taken part since they laid down their arms halfway through the year to become a political party, the High Commissioner’s Office said.
Rivera, who placed the star atop the Christmas tree, said Colombia’s current celebrations are “concrete acts of peace.”
“We’re celebrating peace in Colombia and we’re building peace in Colombia with concrete acts. This photo we’re taking here was unthinkable, unimaginable just a short while ago,” he said in reference to the former guerrilla leaders present, including the oldest member or the FARC, Emilio Cabrera Diaz, known as “Bertulfo Alvarez.”
According to the town’s Mayor Andrea Ovalle, the municipality of La Paz was “a territory stricken by violence,” where there have been “victims, pain, and an absence of government,” a reality that has begun to change thanks to the peace pact the government signed with the FARC in November 2016.
Saturday’s celebration ended with gifts for the children, any of them the sons and daughters of former guerrillas, to the rhythm of villancicos and Colombian pop music.