| Gerson Andrés Flóres Pérez. Photos courtesy of Joe Shalmoni
Gerson Andrés Flóres Pérez is a 16-year-old boy with a mission to help the children of Colombia. Upon meeting this young missionary, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. His authenticity, intelligence, divine compassion, generosity, inner peace and purposefulness moved me deeply. I was honored to connect with this "young" master so that I may deliver his message to the world in the book I am compiling, Children's Messages to the World.
Pérez and I met at the Hague Appeal Conference for Peace. He sold buttons for six weeks to raise the money needed for him and his father to attend. Since then, Pérez has been very successful in his outstanding and humble efforts in fighting against antipersonal landmines, which are a continuing threat to the residents of Colombia (see communiqué below).
Pérez and the Children's Movement for Peace were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, a few years after being awarded the National Peace Award from a pool of nominees that included bishops, NGOs and community leaders. Over the years, Pérez has met with three Latin American presidents, various ministers and ambassadors, Queen Noor of Jordan, Netherland´s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Rigoberta Menchú and Jody Williams. Pérez was the first child to speak before the Colombian Congress.
A few years ago, Pérez wrote a song entitled, "Constructores de Paz," the proceeds of which assist the rehabilitation of children hurt by the Colombian landmines. On behalf of Children's Messages to the World, in which Pérez is one of the contributing authors, I nominated him for the 1999 Global Youth Peace and Tolerance Awards. On Nov. 16,1999, the United Nations Day for Tolerance, Pérez received this honor at the UN Headquarters in New York City. He shone bright from his heart and soul and positively impacted all who heard his words of strength, peace and determination.
A communiqué dated July 25, 2001, contained this report of yet another young victim of Colombia's ongoing internal warfare:
Victim of Landmines
Luis Alejandro is eight years old and lives in Yolombo, near Medellín in Colombia. On 11 July 2001, Luis Alejandro was a victim of an antipersonal landmine, which exploded underneath him and destroyed his two legs.
He underwent amputation surgery at the General Hospital of Medellín, and was in need of artificial limbs, physical therapy and psychological rehabilitation.
His family was very poor, and he had been offered no help for rehabilitation from the government.
Through Gerson Andrés Flórez Pérez (then 15), World Voices funds were raised to help Luis Alejandro.
If you would like to make a financial contribution to help others like Luis, please contact World Voices Norway immediately on [email protected] or phone Director Gert Danielsen on (+ 45) 35 46 71 56 in Copenhagen.
Note: We can immediately accept donations from Colombia, the UK, Norway, Denmark and the USA. We are looking into arranging for other countries and currencies. THANK YOU for wanting to change lives.
Via a press release dated Jan. 18, 2001, My Hero received the following update:
GERSON PREPARES TO MEET THE GUERRILLA
Gerson Andrés (15) has now begun a new academic year in Bogotá, and has changed to a different school. Unfortunately, he felt that some of the teachers at his former school were much stricter with him than with the other pupils, and at times it seemed as if they didn't accept that he "stood out" because of the work he is doing for peace. Thus, he wanted to change schools, and spent some of the money he won in New York last year on tuition fees. This may be yet another reminder that good schooling is not a free privilege in many countries, as it is in Norway.
He will also be increasing his English classes, with evening lessons every day during this final school year. His dream is still to attend the United World Colleges (http://www.uwc.org), and he expects to receive the final decision in two to three months. If he is lucky, he will be going to Canada, the USA or Norway to study for his IB throughout the next two years.
Despite his busy days at school, Gerson is not leaving behind his quest for peace. While Stig van Eijk is finishing the song at home in Bergen, Gerson is preparing his ambitious and quite risky plans for the next few weeks. Recently, he sent a letter to each of the two guerrilla groups, the ELN and the FARC, as well as the leader of the paramilitary group, Carlos Castaño, asking for a meeting with the three groups, which are all involved in the internal conflict that has been affecting Colombia for half a century.
A few days ago, he received a reply from Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, the high commander of the National Liberation Army, the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional), who invited Gerson to a dialogue in southern Bolívar. It may be a risky mission, but Gerson trusts the ELN and Bautista has promised him high security.
Gerson still has not heard from the FARC (Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces) or AUC (United Colombian Self-defence groups), but hopes to make the three groups aware of the role of children in the work for peace. Recently, six children were kidnapped by armed forces in Ovejas in the Sucre region, and Gerson wants to speak up for the many children affected by the serious conflict.
In his letter to the ELN, the FARC and the AUC, Gerson concludes:
"I would like you to know that my work has always been impartial, and that I have always told adults, in a loud voice, to give us education for peace and not training for war."
Please feel free to write an encouraging e-mail to Gerson at [email protected]
World Voices, 180101
9 Oct 2002: Gerson Stabbed - Now Recovering
He has worked for peace since he was 10 years old. And this year he was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, Gerson Andrés Flórez Pérez (17) has been the victim of the very violence he has been working against for years. Last week, on the streets of Bogota, Gerson was stabbed by unknown assailants and for unknown reasons.
In 2001, Gerson was invited to attend the
the Universidad Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia.
He was not sure how he would pay for the tuition, but three generals--Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel (Comandante General del Ejercito), Mario Enrique Correa Zambrano (Director de la Escuela Militar de Cadetes Jose Maria Cordoba), and Paulino Coronado (Jefe Departamento E-5 del Comando del Ejercito)-- donated the funds for his education. On Jan. 28, 2002, Gerson became the youngest law student in the college.