By Kathy Price, Campaigner for Americas, Amnesty International Canada
A threatened Indigenous leader in Colombia needs your help.
There are many things I remember about my trip to the Maritimes in 2010 with Flaminio Onogama Gutierrez. I remember the soft-spoken, yet passionate words of the Embera Chami Indigenous leader as he met with community activists in Saint John and Hampton, explaining about the bombing of Indigenous communities in Colombia, the terror that made families run for their lives. I remember his warm smile as he talked to high school students and helped them to understand the human rights crisis in Colombia and Canada’s connections. It is so important to teach the next generation, he told me.
Now Flaminio is in hiding, his life under threat because of his work to defend the rights of vulnerable Indigenous peoples and their right to decide what happens on their land. Two of his relatives, Indigenous leaders as well, were tortured and stabbed to death earlier this month. Short hours before, they had warned Flaminio to stay away from the community because armed paramilitaries had arrived and were asking for him.
Flaminio is in mourning for the family members he has lost. He is extremely worried about his own safety, and that of his people.
His voice must not be silenced. He must be free to speak up and defend Indigenous rights without fear of violent retaliation.
We can help to protect him and his vital work, by raising our voice from the country that Flaminio visited with hope that we would open our hearts to support the struggle for rights and dignity in Colombia. In emails we have shared in these past frightening days, he asked me to tell you how important your messages of concern are.
This violence must end. Together we can make a difference. Thank you!