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True stories from the front lines of the Children’s Movement for Peace in Colombia

Out of War is written for children 12 years and up. It tells the true stories of nine young people from Colombia who have experienced war and terrible violence, yet chose to work for peace and helped to 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. Woven through these individual stories is the larger story of the Children’s Movement for Peace in Colombia.

In 1998, the Children’s Movement for Peace in Colombia was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I was invited by the UNICEF office in Colombia to write a report on the Movement that would be sent to the Nobel Committee in support of the nomination. In the space of a month I interviewed more than 150 young people. Their stories were overwhelming, powerful, and life-changing. Over the next several years, with support from UNICEF I continued to follow the extraordinary journeys of these remarkable young people.

The following pages include some of those stories, including several that did not appear in the published edition of the book. Some of these, like the story of Yudi, are of very disturbed children who struggle to make sense of the violent world around them. Many of the children I spoke to who had experienced terrible violence had imaginary friends. Yudi told stories to herself constantly and sometimes it was hard to know what was real. The stories helped her to find a way out of fear and abandonment. Others, like the story told by Ines, have an almost magical realism quality that is typical of Colombian culture. It is hard to believe in Ines’ story yet she was so young when she related this tale, it is equally hard to imagine her inventing it. Like me perhaps you will want to believe it.

All the children apart from Juan Elias adopted pseudonyms to protect their identities - and they all chose for themselves the names they wanted to be known by.

La paix pour les enfants

Constructores de Paz

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jose Ramos Horta, with children from the movement for oeace and local media in Bogota in 1997.


Ramos Horta nominated the Children’s Movement for Peace for the Nobel Peace Prize.


Photo: UNICEF

Much of this work was originally produced for UNICEF

Out of War