meet Ricardo Esquivia

by Campaign ~ October 11th, 2013. Filed under: meet the real peacebuilders.

Ricardo Esquivia - Real PeacebuilderThe son of an Afro-Colombian father and an indigenous mother, Ricardo Esquivia was raised on the Caribbean coast. When his father developed leprosy and was institutionalized, Ricardo lived on the streets until the Mennonite Church took him in and educated him in their school. From that small school, he went on to study law and then returned to the Caribbean coast to organize poor farmers in Montes de María. Accused of being an ideologue for the guerrillas for his community organizing, Ricardo, his wife and four children fled, first to Cartagena and then to Bogotá. There, he founded Justapaz, the Christian Center for Peace, Justice, and Non-Violent Action. He served as its Executive Director for thirteen years, developing work with displaced communities and projects for sustainable economic development and peace education. His work with conscientious objectors brought him into conflict with the Colombian military and forced him to flee into exile in the United States.

Ricardo also helped establish the Commission for Restoration, Life, and Peace of the Colombian Council of Evangelical Churches (CEDECOL), which he still serves as National Coordinator. In that capacity he facilitated the development of five regional commissions of pastors and lay leaders to help Protestant churches provide emergency assistance to the displaced, to develop small-scale economic projects, and to work with local leaders to build a grassroots movement for peace. He has participated in national and regional dialogues with legal and illegal armed groups in Colombia.

In 2004, he moved back to the Caribbean Coast, forming a small, non-profit, faith-based organization, Sembrandopaz (Sowing Peace). As a founding member with three Catholic Bishops of the Foundation of Development and Peace of Montes de Maria, Ricardo works regionally and ecumenically to increase civil society participation in a “laboratory of peace” funded through the European Union. Working with CEDECOL, he has helped create a network of Associations for a Dignified Life in Solidarity (RED ASVIDAS) to develop income-generating projects, to reweave the social fabric, and to create an infrastructure for peace. There are now about 130 local, municipal, and regional church-based associations of ASVIDAS on the Caribbean coast, which include 5,000 people, 230 congregations, and 29 denominations. He was the recipient of the Tanenbaum Center’s Peacemaker award in 2005 and the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s International Pfeffer Peace Prize in 2008.

First, I’m not one of the important people in building peace in Colombia. I’m just a worker that works at the base. I have been one of the many actors in these movements. I dedicated 30 years to build a national movement for peace from Bogota, the capital, but I saw that perhaps that’s not the way. I arrived at the conclusion that one must strengthen the regions. And to do that you have to work at local levels, with local communities. That’s why for the last eight or nine years I’ve dedicated my time to working with local communities. For now, I think I’ll continue in that role, as a kind of supporter and mentor to these groups in their processes of building peace. I think the work is to plant the seeds of hope, and cultivate hope and transfer hope to communities, to have hope in themselves and believe in themselves, so that they see that the strength comes within them, not from outside. The only thing that can transform things is the united efforts of communities. For the moment that’s what I think I’ll do. Tomorrow I may think something else. These are living movements. Not linear, not mechanical processes — they are living, organic processes. – Ricardo Esquivia

La Boz, D. 2013 After 65 Years—Will Peace Finally Come to Colombia? An Interview with Ricardo Esquivia 2 October Upside Down World [Online]. [Accessed 11 October 2013]. Avaliable from

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