Out of War tells the true stories of nine young people from Colombia who have experienced war and terrible violence, yet have chosen to work for peace, helping create one of the strongest movements ever for peace in their country.
The young people describe their struggles as as they try to cope with some of the harshest tests of life: Juan Elias with the assassination of his father; Wilfrido with death threats; Maritza with violence at home and gang warfare on the streets; Farlis with massacres in her town.
The Colombian war has lasted more than 40 years. It is a brutal conflict between many different armed groups who struggle for power and control over land. All the armed groups have abused the rights of innocent people. About 5,000 people are killed every year, and most of these are civilians. Massacres occur almost every week. Since 1985, more than 2 million people - or 1 in 20 Colombians - have been forced to abandon their homes because of the war.
War and poverty have spurred even more violence. Disappearances and kidnappings are widespread - in 1999 alone, more than 3,000 people were kidnapped. And Colombian cities have some of the worst murder rates in the world.
By the mid-1990s, peace efforts were fragmented and the peace movement was weak - until the Children's Movement came along.
From the author:
I interviewed Colombia's President Pastrana in May 1999 and asked him what was the hardest obstacle to overcome in the effort to make peace. He said that it was the lack of faith that peace was possible. After a half-century of war, after so many betrayals and failures, perhaps it is not surprising that people should have little faith. This is what makes the stories of the young people in this book so important.
The Movement began with young people working as individuals or in small groups, often at great risk. It swelled to include millions of children and adults clamouring for their rights to life and peace. The Movement remains informal: it has no official leadership and welcomes as members all those under 18 trying to improve the quality of life in violence-affected communities. The Movement's goal is to end the violence that is tearing Colombia apart, whether it is related to the war, to street violence or to abuse inside the home. The Movement also strives to build unity among young people, across racial, economic, and geographic barriers - a unity that adult Colombians lack.
It is an inspiring story, told best through the lives and words of these courageous young people.