Stephen Law, PBI-Colombia volunteer

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Peace Brigades international-Canada is helping to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project by sharing stories of volunteers from Canada who have accompanied human rights defenders through PBI in Colombia.

Stephen Law was the past chair of Peace Brigades International, has trained international accompaniers in conflict areas around the world, and was a volunteer with the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project in 1998-99.

In this March 2013 interview with Fernwood Publishing, Stephen notes, “My time in El Salvador [in the 1990s] indelibly impacted me. I was able to live and work with repatriated communities who had been forced to flee from the violence perpetrated by the military and return to resettle their communities under the watchful and malicious eyes of the state.”

When he returned to Canada, he became involved with the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America in Toronto as well as engaging in solidarity activities with the Latin American exile community.

Stephen adds, “Through this work I realized I wanted to go back to Latin America and, specifically to Colombia. I felt that I could use my ‘Canadian’ness’ to be in solidarity with folks in Latin America, participating as an accompanier.”

“So, my partner and I volunteered with Peace Brigades International as human rights accompaniers – in my book [Tailings of Warren Peace], I refer to them as ‘…lighthouse beacons who could signal at signs of danger.’  We basically used our ‘standing’ as Canadian citizens to try to prevent attacks against communities and individuals threatened with violence.”

“We lived in the department of Uraba, one of the most war torn areas of Colombia in a small town that was dominated by the paramilitaries. It was also an area that had rich natural resources that were desperately sought after by multinational companies.”

“We accompanied communities that had been violently displaced so companies could have unrestrained access to these resources. The communities we accompanied were forced to live in internally displaced camps surrounded by the butchers who had sent them fleeing from their homes.”

Stephen poignantly highlights, “It was an intense and brutal time, marked by a massacre of friends and colleagues perpetrated by the military and their paramilitary allies. My novel [Tailings of Warren Peace] in many ways was an attempt to honour those folks and others who gave their lives to imaging a different world.”

Stephen and his partner Evelyn Jones now live in Kennetcook, Nova Scotia. His second novel is Under Her Skin. For more about Stephen, please see his website.

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