Today is an important day for Colombians. Today is the day that the people of this country have decided to stand as one and march for peace. Today is the day this nation hopes to bring international attention to the injustices put against its people by certain para-military groups. Today is the day they stand as one.
As I'm sure many of you have heard, even in the often Ameri-centric news media, several kidnapped victims have been released by Colombian rebels and leftist activists. Many more, however, remain captive and many people here are still paying off ransoms for their freedoms and to prevent further kidnappings.
The main, but not only, group that is being targeted with these injustices is the FARC (translated, it stands for the "Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia"). This is not your typical guerilla group, however. They do not generally commit random acts of violence; everything they do is planned and with a purpose. Those who are kidnapped usually have money and/or are in positions of power. Many of the families of the students at my school fall into this category. Several have been or have family members who have been kidnapped in the past and held until a hefty ransom was paid. (Do not worry about me - the FARC know I am not someone they could extort money for.)
This is the reason for today. Today, Colombians from all over the country and allegedly other nations as well, are holding Peace Marches against organizations like the FARC. Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets today in Cali and other cities across Colombia in a non-violent march for peace.
Apparently Colombia is not typically one of those nations that protests regularly so this is seen as a big deal. School is very much a ghost town today. The primary sections are in full swing but the numbers dwindle significantly as you reach the higher grades. There are only 16 9th graders here today out of about 75. The entire high school only has 30 students present.
Walking around this weekend I saw many of the traffic light vendors selling Marcha de la Paz t-shirts and those flags you stick out your car window instead of their usual fare of pirated DVD's, cell phone chargers, and mango slices. All of Cali, rich and poor, seemed to be gearing up for this one event. It is going on as I type this and I pray it goes well and everyone remembers this is a march for peace.
It will be interesting to see what happens. As the banners and t-shirts declare:
NO MAS SECUESTROS!
NO MAS MENTIRAS!
NO MAS MUERTES!
NO MAS FARC!
NO MORE KIDNAPPING!
NO MORE LIES!
NO MORE MURDER!
NO MORE FARC!