We request to all the adults of all the countries in the world:
These poetic and powerful words were excerpted from a speech
given at The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference by Farliz Calle, one of the leaders of the
The Children's Peace Movement, who has
for the Nobel Peace Prize
Peace in the world
Peace in our countries
Peace in our homes
Peace in our hearts.
I had the opportunity to meet these children at the premiere
of the CNN documentary, SOLDIERS OF PEACE: A CHILDREN'S
CRUSADE, that was executive-produced by Kathy Eldon. The film
documents the courageous work of the 2.7 million-strong
Children's Mandate for Peace and Rights in war-torn Colombia.
Watching the five teenage leaders of the movement speak after the movies' recent premiere, I
was struck with how young and sweet they looked. Like most
kids, they were thrilled to have gone to Disneyland. Yet the
reason they were in Los Angeles to share their stories with
our kids....to inspire our kids....was to help stop the
violence that not only permeates Colombia, but our
own backyards as well.
THE CHILDREN'S PEACE MOVEMENT
Decades of drug trafficking and guerrilla warfare have made
Colombia one of the most violent countries in the world.
Elections are usually targeted by many different armed
factions, including the military. In the face of death
threats, these brave children asked for a "Day of
Tranquility", and all armed groups complied.
On October 25, 1996, 2.7 million Colombian children, ages 7
- 18, voted overwhelmingly for the right to life, the right
to peace and the right to family. This special election
birthed the Children's Mandate for Peace and Rights. One
year later 10 million adults voted for peace.
What makes children risk their lives every day for peace?
These five activists/Nobel nominees each began their
pursuits of peace after experiencing anguish and personal
Juan Elias Uribe, 17, had no idea of the real effect of
violence until his father, a local doctor who spoke against
the rampant killings, was slain. Juan has now joined the
ranks of the 1.5 million displaced people of Colombia,
trying to start a new life.
For some time after his father's murder, Juan thought about
withdrawing from the peace process. But it was his father
who instilled peaceful beliefs in Juan, and now nothing can
stop his own quest for peace. He believes: "If you harvest
a child of peace you'll have an adult who will not be
Mayerly Sanchez, 15, lost her best friend Milton to a
Colombian gang. Mayerly feels a strong connection to her
murdered friend, and his spirit inspires her workshops.
There children try to find solutions to the problems the
adults started. She states: "Peace starts in our homes.
We cannot spread peace in our society if we don't have it in
Dilia Lorenzo, 15, wanted to improve the situation for
children and stop the wave of violence. "What good is it to
be afraid? We have a choice. Enough is enough and we won't
accept this anymore. We demand change." Dilia uses her
radio show at school as a tool for peace. She would like to
show the rest of the world the lovely face of Colombia, the
one that exists beyond the violence.
Wilfrido Zambrano, 17, comes from Apartado, the most violent
of Colombian villages, where bodies litter the streets. He
has had to move to a secret location because of threats on
his life. Wilfrido, raised in violence, has chosen the path
of peace. A play therapist, he uses sock puppets to teach
kids how to put hurts and grudges behind them and reach
forward towards their goals.
Farliz Calle, also grew up witnessing the kidnappings and
random killings in the streets of Apartado. There came a
moment when she was so sick of all the killings, she
started thinking what she could do in her school, church,
her neighborhood. She is studying to be a psychologist at
the University of the Andes, to help people unnecessarily
affected by the armed conflict. "We want to show that in
acute crises, children need to make up part of the solution.
People say children are the future of a country, but we're
not the future, we're the present. We have to build
At the peace conference in The Hague, Farliz was lucky
enough to meet her hero, Rigoberta Menchu, the Guatemalan
Nobel Peace winner /campaigner for human rights, who worked
especially on behalf of indigenous peoples.
Farliz spoke of the nobility and simplicity she inspires,
"Many times in Colombia I felt like throwing in the towel,
but I realize it's not fair to suddenly stop the fight, that
it is necessary to keep working." Rigoberta replied, "I know
that working for human rights takes a lot of courage and you
can't find that alone."
Farliz ended her speech with the following words: "We can't
change the whole world alone, but if I can teach people that
if you put your hand in mine and little by little we join
more hands...maybe we can construct a new world."
There are many organizations including, among others,
UNICEF, The Red Cross, Save the Children, World Vision, the
Catholic Church and REDEPAZ that have supported the
Children's Peace Movement. But the visit in 1996 of Graca
Machel (the current wife of Nelson Mandela), when she collected material
for her United Nations study on the impact of armed conflict
on children, seems to have been a major turning point for
many. She was the spark that ignited the flame for peace
that glows brighter every day.
SOLDIERS OF PEACE; A CHILDREN'S CRUSADE is directed, written and
produced by independent filmmaker Kyra Thompson and executive-produced
by Kathy Eldon, president of Creative Visions.
Lydia Smith is senior
producer and Amy Eldon is co-producer. For CNN Productions, Pat
Mitchell serves as executive producer, Vivian Schiller as senior
producer and Jacoba Atlas