Fundación BogotArt is the winner of the first Youth Carnegie Peace Prize for the initiative ‘Letters for Reconciliation’. BogotArt aims to use the arts as a catalyzer for social inclusion, understanding, and cooperation, whereby local communities are empowered and can find peaceful solutions to their challenges. Our project Letters for Reconciliation co-created with several youth organizations, including among others Fundación Jóvenes para Jóvenes and the Junior Chamber International, creates a dialogue between disconnected groups in Colombia and, according to the jury of the prize, addresses in an impressive way the challenge of promoting meaningful youth participation in peace transition processes. Moreover, the project creates safe space for communication and trustful civic spaces for youth to operate in their local contexts.
The purpose of the initiative is to shape the narrative of conflict in Colombia, creating a dialogue between FARC ex-combatants and citizens, whereby they can hear another version of our country’s story of war that is not available through the media or official government statements. It was as well an exercise to humanize the other, where there was no longer an ‘Us vs. Them’ situation, but rather we were able to perceive the other as an equal, as a citizen that has made mistakes, but as well can redeem its behavior and positively contribute to society. “It is our window of opportunity, it is a historical moment for the youth of Colombia to send a strong message to the world, demonstrating that beyond the more than 50 years of war, we are a society ready to forgive, to enter a process of reconciliation and write our future together”, says Cristian Palacios, one of Letters for Reconciliation’s co-founders.
BogotArt additional to receiving the prize will receive the title of the Youth Ambassador of the Peace Palace. Leonardo Párraga, executive director of BogotArt commented about this recognition: “In Colombia, after more than 50 years of war, we have seen how the scars of a violent conflict have polarized our society, creating groups that don’t interact with one another and based their perceptions almost entirely in prejudices and stereotypes. We saw the necessity of creating a space of dialogue and understanding, where civil society and FARC ex-combatants could engage with one another beyond labels, leaving the category of an enemy behind to find the common humanity shared by both. For us, the team of the BogotArt Foundation, and the several young individuals and youth organizations that helped to co-create the Letters for Reconciliation initiative, it is an honor to receive such a recognition, because it is a direct demonstration of the power that the youth have to transform conflict and build sustainable peace.”
The new Youth Ambassador of the Peace Palace, ended his acceptance speech on a positive note, although being mindful of the difficult situation that social leaders face in Colombia: “I imagine a country where being a social leader is not a death sentence but an honor (...)I imagine a society where the children reading the textbooks realize that their parents where the last generation to experience war. The window of opportunity is open for us. Now is the moment to act. Let’s invest in the youth waging peace, to reap the benefits of innovative views. If we miss this chance, we, the youth will remain the missing peace, for generations to come.”
Source: World Urban Campaign