A group of 11 Colombians, among them eight former rebels, is preparing to conquer stages in Madrid and London with music.
The tour, which begins Friday, is called “Sing with me for reintegration,” is a project of the High Council for Reintegration of the Colombian Government, formed with help from 2006 Latin Grammy winner Juan Fernando Fonseca.
The group of ex-fighters became involved in the project to give lessons in music and burn a disc with messages for social reconciliation, according to the news agency EFE.
Luis Alfonso Castaño, who belonged to the AUC paramilitary group, told Efe that it “has been a wonderful experience to share with people of different cultures and beliefs and tell the world that peace can be achieved.”
“In this project there are people who belonged to FARC and the paramilitaries and citizens who once were enemies and we are now in hand, sharing, singing embrace, without rancor, without thinking of the past and seeing only the present and a better future “said Castaño, who has spent five years with the program.
After recalling his past, the 35-year-old Medellin resident said he wanted to pass along one message: “Just like I have a talent for music, those who are fighting in the jungle must see what they have to offer the world instead of doing harm.”
Another member of the group, Lia Cortes Zamira, 24, was demobilized from the FARC only two years ago.
“When I finished school I no longer wanted to be a sheltered girl, I wanted new experiences and learn other things. Then a friend convinced me to go to work with her, and the work turned out to be with the guerrillas,” she said.
However, Cortes Zamira is now part of the group, chosen from more than 100 other hopefuls.
“The project has been my transformation. I have no desire other than to know and discover new things and new experiences, because to bear arms will never be the best option and if we want to change and give peace to Colombia we have to work,” she said.
Common Colombian citizens also make up the group, including 22-year-old Cecilio Valdés, a Cartagena singer and composer who was happy to help his fellow “citizens.”
“It’s a very nice experience it has helped me mature in my thoughts about the demobilized. I want to show that you can be with people who belonged to the conflict and at the same time serve as an example to other citizens to reach out to them,” he said.
More than 51,000 ex fighters have been demobilized in Colombia in the last seven years through the Justice and Peace Law. Of those 32,000 were from right-wing paramilitary groups and over 15,000 were members of the FARC and National Liberation Army (ELN ).