Reflections on Antimilitarism in Movement
"Landing in Bogota I had no real understanding of what the Anti-Militarism in Movement conference and the WRI gathering actually was. A week later, bonding with organizers from across the globe, cocreating new anti-militarist visions, and learning about people’s movements, the experience of going to WRI showed me of what truly powerful internationalist organizing lead by the Global South looks like. From the plenaries showing the organizing happening from the hyper local to the global, to the breakout tracks tying so many disparate projects together in a creative and intuitive way, folks coming to the conference were pushed to expand their visions of what is possible in the anti-militarist future we are trying to create together.
My late night chats with organizers brainstorming how we can connect our work together is leading to joint teach ins, speaking tours, and planning new actions against targets here in the heart of US Empire. The new models of facilitation and programming we picked up from the conference planning are being brought back and shared with conference organizers here. Both the WRI Staff and the volunteers who put on the conference did an amazing job, and especially handling the difficulties of running a multi-lingual conference.
A few months back, I asked the previous organizer at WRL if it was worth going to the WRI conference? Was I just going to be in a room with crowd of people more interested in reliving the previous almost 100 years of international anti-war organizing than building the kind of movement we need to confront militarism today? They said, “Go, and the way you think about this work will be profoundly changed.” They were completely right.
The event was important for the CoNova Collective (Active Nonviolent Consciousness) because it allowed us to meet with different antimilitarist collectives and organizations from around the world. It opened our minds to understand different problems in other countries, and to know that in spite of these problems there are people giving everything to make a change.
Today, we keep acquaintances and friends thanks to the spaces offered, we manage to make links and relationships to strengthen ourselves as individuals and as a collective. The meeting gave us more reasons not to give up, and to continue to support each other among the different agents who believe in the construction of peace, in nonviolence and in the fact that around us there will always be a place to continue serving from an anti-militarist standpoint.
For this reason, we are grateful to all those who allowed us to be part of this space, to share and listen to the different stories that are lived in their territories. No one is alone. Together, uniting our initiatives, we will achieve with a firm step, to see that change that we committed to the moment we decided to resist the war.
Though I've been to many conferences, I had never attended a WRI event before I left for Bogotá this summer and frankly had only little idea of what to expect. This much can be said right away: The event was easily one of the best conferences I have ever participated in. Working in the peace movement in Germany and mostly dealing with the injustices and problems at home, it was instructive to gain insight into current issues in Latin America and many other places around the world. It was powerful to hear how activists from conflict areas offer resistance against oppression and violence, making the things that I am working for at home seem less significant. After all, I am not living in an oppressive system, I never had to experience war and I am not living in fear of being incarcerated or killed. However, the organisers of the conference accomplished to create a space where everyone could come together and share their stories and struggles which, in my opinion, led to a great sense of solidarity among the participants. It made people connect with one another and appreciate each other’s work. The use of new, interactive methods fueled these interactions, the expressional ways of communicating, the singing and dancing filled the event with life. At the conference, the assembly and the council meetings of the WRI, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the most interesting activists from different places of the world. In that regard, it was most striking to me, especially during decision making processes at the WRI gatherings, that despite the different cultures, beliefs and working methods, decisions were made in consensus. I think diversity is crucial to that. Something that the WRI already knows and my organisation still has to learn.
My trip to Bogotá was really long and full of turbulence. So when I finally arrived I was desperately tired. Do you know the level of tiredness where you can't help it but just cry? Yup, that was it. But that all changed when I arrived to our hostel. I had some trouble finding it but when I did, it soon became the lovely meeting point for us. I still miss those evenings with my colleagues, friends and family. At the hostel I got some sleep and in the morning I realised I was with my people. That feeling just got stronger day by day. I truly found my international peace family. All that genuine caring, same values and safety. I wasn't fully prepared to find my safe place in the middle of Colombia. It truly surprised me and made me and my heart happy.
All these important, hardworking professional activist and peace workers just made me feel so welcome. I felt so honoured to be there and meet everyone. I was very impressed of all that wisdom that was shared. At the WRI meetings and in the conference I really noticed how passionate people are towards WRI and the whole different situations going on. I have noticed in myself that sometimes I run out of energy. We are put down so often, we are left alone to fight for recourses instead of really being able to fully focus on affecting on the important things we want to change. This whole week gave me hope, energy and a passion boost. It gave me inspiring friends, colleagues and most importantly loving, caring and harworking international peace family.
I learned so much and fully understood that together we are stronger. Our ways to be and act supports each others and makes us more stronger and united. There is room for as all, there is support, respect and care. Most importantly there is also action. Peace work needs to be done together because there is no freedom until everyone of us is free.
One wise man once said 'It is easy to be warm when everything around you is so cold.' I hope we all find strength to be that warmness in sometimes so cold world.
Greetings from rainy Finland.