Things of consequence: creating possibility
Ordinary moments may lead us to moments of delighted surprise and things of consequence.
Homeward bound on a bus from Macquarie University to Sydney’s North-eastern beach suburbs, I fell into easy conversation with my handsome Colombian colleague. He was reading in English Marley and Me (John Grogan, 2005 Harper Collins) and gently recommended me to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. I wasted little time in getting acquainted with the magic realism of One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Love in the Time of Cholera. Books are like mirrors in which we find inspiration for our living and deep reflections of real life.
In 1982, dialogue for peace began in Colombia. A Peace deal has finally been signed in 2016, bringing to an end more than fifty years of conflict. This doesn’t mean that conflict has disappeared, but that there are now different models for dialogue and negotiation.
The peace process seemed to be scuttled when a plebiscite held to ratify the peace agreement with FARC resulted in more “no” votes than “yes”. It seemed that Garcia’s One Hundred Years of Solitude was still playing out in real-life, presenting contradictions with “a capacity for surprise”… “where no one knew where the limits of reality lay.”
President Juan Manuel Santos embarked on further dialogue to enhance the unity and reconciliation process. Being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 brought these processes to a positive and comprehensive conclusion.
At the core of Colombia’s process are the victims and principles of human rights. It was refreshing to listen to BBC World Service’s The Inquiry this morning. Rather than gloom and doom, the four segments had a theme of “What went right in 2016?”
The first story was about Teresita Gaviria and the mothers of the disappeared –Madres de la Candelaria- who have gathered one day a week since the late 1990s – to protest the disappearance of their loved ones, and then began to visit and talk with the fighters, perpetrators of mass violence, in gaol. Gradually they became part of the formal peace process, ready to hear genuine apologies, to forgive and work for reconciliation and peace together.
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in December, on behalf of the Colombian people, President Santos pays tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as well as fellow Peace prize recipient Malala and the profound belief in change through education, and Nobel Literature prize recipient Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”. “How many deaths does it take…?” In Colombia’s case, 220,000 deaths and 8 million displaced.
Santos declares that based on our common humanity and transforming reality through education it is possible to imagine a different way of living and to create possibility from what was once thought to be an impossibility. If this is so for Colombia, so too for Syria, South Sudan and others. “Perhaps more than ever before, we can now dare to imagine a world without war…”
Perhaps we might also strike up conversations with others in ordinary moments on the bus, on the street, in the workplace, in the home, to dissolve differences and build bridges of peace, to find our common humanity, one by one, with patience and persistence.
"Juan Manuel Santos - Nobel Lecture: Peace in Colombia: From the Impossible to the Possible".Nobelprize.org.Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 1 Jan 2017. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2016/santos-lecture_en.html
BBC World Service, 2017, The Inquiry: What went right in 2016? 1 January, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04ks9qk
As a gentle provocateur of positive change,