Out of War

"There's going to be this amazing election for children about their rights! The Children's movement for peace has been formed!"

Beto 12-16

Beto is from Medellin, Antioquia, in Colombia. Beto’s mother was an alcoholic, and had had children with Beto’s father as well as another man. Both men had abandoned her. His brother Fredy was taken as a child by their neighbors. When his mother finally got him back, he was unstable from the drugs and alcohol. But Fredy, again, got messed up with alcohol, drugs, and gangs. They never saw him again. After Fredy was gone, Beto’s mother brought “German” into their house. German was nine when Beto was born and was always horrible to him. He beat him and his sister Milena, and threatened worse if they were to tell their mom. German stole from their family as well as other families and was eventually sent to Bela Vista jail.

Geographical Location


Beto became a problem in school. He would do anything to cause trouble. He would put cockroaches in people’s faces and called people names. He talked in class, made everyone laugh, or dropped books to disrupt the class. His mother started beating him. German was horrible to Beto and he wrote plans to run away from his life and home. He lived in the slums of his area, but lived in better conditiions than most of the people in his country. There was a lot of violence in the house with German beating Beto and his sister.

"I wrote messages to myself in a secret notebook - dramatic statements like:

I'm going to leave home! I know I can get on in life!"

Why does he fight?

Beto continued to work for the peace movement through the church and the young people in his community because he had “fallen in love with life.” As bad as the lives of himself and his peers were, he firmly believed in the right to life, and that all people, no matter what age or situation, should be entitled to life. After being abused as a child by German, and having to fend for himself due to his mother's drinking, Beto didn't want others to have to live with the hardships that he had had to live with.

Achievements for change and hopes for the future

Beto worked for the peace movement through the church and the young people in his community. He worked with a group of adolescents in the nearby barrio of La Planta, trying to change the stereotype that young people in the area must be a gang of thieves or murderers. He hopes that children can grow up knowing and respecting their rights. If parents teachers, and all adults, respect and protect the rights of children, then they could transform their communities into a better place. They could even end the war.

"It was the church that really gave me a way out of the violence at home."
The church was a crucial turning point in Beto's life. His responsibilities as an altar boy helped to keep him out of trouble and going down the same path as his brother Fredy. The Spanish priest Manolo opened up a whole new world of ideas to Beto, and always had time to listen, to talk, and to ask about Beto's family. The Church helped give him the hope to carry on with life and do more to help others do the same.

It was through the church that he met Maritza, a fellow altar server at his church. He tried to help her to overcome some of the problems in her life, and although she wouldn't listen to him at first, he was eventually able to help her let go of some of the hate and work with him for change in their community.