Farid Julicué

Messenger of peace

Farid Julicué wants to turn his Colombian hometown into ‘a laboratory of peace’. But after decades of pain, peace is something that you really have to work for.

Farid Julicué is a proud inhabitant of Caldono. ‘Caldono is one big family,’ he says. ‘If something happens here, it happens to us all.’ This Colombian village was in the forefront of the armed conflict raging in the country from 1964. A multitude of parties committed atrocities: government forces, government-backed paramilitaries, crime syndicates and left-wing guerrilla movements. An estimated 267.000 people died, most of them civilians, and almost 7 million people had to flee their homes.

In his notebooks, Farid Julicué wrote down all the ways in which the war affected his village. He both described what he witnessed himself and captured the testimonies of his fellow villagers. When in 2016 a peace agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the biggest guerrilla movement, FARC, Julicué was hopeful. At the same time, he knew that peace doesn’t just come about. ‘Peace is like a butterfly with beautiful colours. But it’s so fragile,’ he says in the powerful documentary Onverharde weg naar Vrede (Unpaved road to Peace), shown at the Movies that Matter Festival 2019 where Farid Julicué is a special guest.

After the peace agreement, former FARC combatants from Caldono had to return to civilian life. Julicué made it his mission to ensure a peaceful homecoming. ‘I would like to talk to them,’ he said. ‘We have to take this chance offered by the peace agreement.’ But how do you achieve reconciliation when the villagers still hurt from years of violence and wreckage caused by FARC? For many of them, the pain is still too deep.

Julicué knows that his quest for peace is an uphill battle. He and other civil society leaders are increasingly unsafe, as armed groups try to disrupt the peace process. In 2018 alone, as much as 125 community leaders were killed in Colombia. Farid Julicué, however, doesn’t give up. ‘I think of my children and grandchildren,’ he says. ‘I want them to live in a laboratory of peace in Caldono one day.’

Film: Onverharde weg naar Vrede (director Jaap van 't Kruis, producer DOXY)