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After Decades of War, National and Personal Healing Begins

Andrés Bermúdez Liévano, a freelance journalist from Bogota, Colombia, is a 2017-18 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow. Universidad de La Sabana, a private accredited university, is the Carter Center’s partner in awarding the fellowships in Colombia.

My country suffered through 50 years of violent internal conflict before The Carter Center and others helped the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia conclude a historic peace agreement in 2016. While the parties to the talks continue to create and shape a new political reality, people who lived through the conflict are seeking ways to deal with what they have seen and endured.

As a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism recipient, I have made it my mission to document and understand the methods and practices that victims of violence are using to come to terms with this dark period of our history and rebuild their lives.

Through a continuing series of in-depth articles in different Colombian magazines like La Silla Vacia, Semana, Vice and Cerosetenta, I am tracing the journeys of people scarred physically and mentally by landmines, sexual violence, and other evils that accompany war. I have been impressed with how people are finding ways to cope with mental and emotional issues, fill the gaps in scarce psycho-social and professional support, and rebuild their communities.

I’ve watched as rural residents have made a conscious effort to recover indigenous spirituality and cultural traditions to overcome a legacy of illicit crops and the violence often employed to protect them.

I’ve been present when folk songs and traditional herbal medicine have proved effective in overcoming the scars of sexual violence.

I’ve seen transformations take place as landmine victims have practiced kintsugi, an ancient Japanese technique to repair broken porcelain, as a way to cope with their physical and emotional injuries.

I’ve observed as women have used weaving to reflect on their shared experiences of displacement and violence and to support one another.

I’ve marveled as victims and former combatants have combined spiritual and psycho-social methods to reconcile with each other.

And I’ve witnessed so much creativity, empathy, and generosity as a woman who lost two family members to forced disappearance helps others find their disappeared loved ones; as a landmine victim joins a humanitarian demining team; as indigenous brothers whose people and lands were exploited recover their sense of dignity and strength through weightlifting.

Colombia is bringing forth a generation of peacemakers and community builders and wellness professionals who are committed to national reconciliation and mental recovery.

It is my privilege to show it to the world.

Related Resources

Learn more about the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism >

Apply for a fellowship >

Video | Colombia Alters Landscape of Mental Health Journalism >

Video | Carter Center Colombian Fellows Breaking New Ground >

Posted in Colombia, Countries, Health, Mental Health, Rosalynn Carter

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    Kathleen Arffmann on December 19, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Like your position in South Africa in 1977-81 you show integrity and profound sensitivity in your work
    in South America. Thank you. We are grateful for your values and your commitment to “the other.”

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