“PBI taught me the value of solidarity”: Scott Pearce reflects on his time with PBI in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

As Peace Brigades International approaches its 40th anniversary in 2021, we are sharing the reflections of past volunteers from Canada who accompanied at-risk defenders in various PBI project countries over the years.

Scott Pearce, who now lives in Toronto, accompanied defenders through the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project in 2000.

Scott tells us: “PBI taught me the value of solidarity. When political violence targets human rights defenders and anyone brave enough to speak out, building a strong network of solidarity–at the local level and the international level–is the most effective response. And on a personal level, this network of solidarity allows one to persevere against what seem like insurmountable odds.”

In the photo above, Scott is standing beside Gildardo, a member of the Leadership Council for the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado.

Scott shares: “The picture was taken the morning after paramilitary forces attacked San Jose de Apartado and set fire to many buildings. You can actually see the burn marks on the wall behind us and part of the burned roof top is lying on top of the pool table.”

Providing further context to this experience, Eva Scarfe, the longest serving member of Peace Brigades International, recently told us:

“I remember a time when Scott and a Swiss volunteer called Hans were in San José when the paramilitaries raided the town. On all previous raids, they had killed people, but this time no-one got killed. I attribute this to the excellent work of the two volunteers.

I was in the PBI house in Turbo when this happened. Scott’s role was to hide among the sacks of coffee and cocoa beans in the cooperative store, with PBI’s secret emergency telephone, and relay the information minute by minute to us in Turbo (a dangerous role, because if the paras had searched the store and found him, they would have been very angry).

I remember we were asking anxiously ‘can you hear shots being fired?’ because that would have meant people were being killed. And Scott was answering ‘I’m hearing a lot of noise, sounds like explosions, but I can’t be sure about shots.’

While we kept one line open for Scott, with the other we were calling our local emergency support network, and relaying the information to the office in Bogotá, from where it went out to the world. The result of the raid was that nearly half the houses in San José were burnt down, but no-one died.”

Please consider making an online donation to PBI-Canada to help us with our continuing outreach efforts to find volunteers to accompany defenders. Accompaniment continues to be critically needed in helping to make space for peace.

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