Juan Elias

Children's Movement for Peace

The Story of his Life

Background

Juan Elias was born into the war. He lived a privileged childhood with plenty of food and money unlike many of other poor and displaced Colombians. His family owned a farmhouse and his own very large home. When he turned eight his aunt and her four children moved in with his family which included his father, mother, and brother, Andres. That same year that his aunt's family moved in their cattle at the farm was stolen. On Christmas, they were singing carols in their home when gunshots sounded in the street, the next day Juan and Andres found 25 holes in the side of their house. Later on the whole family was blackmailed for a total of 10,000 dollars. Juan's father notified the police and they sent the money to the designated pick up destination. No one came to pick up the money but later that week their mother was being followed and soon they were once again threatened but this time it was a threat to kidnap Juan. The day after the threat they moved to the town of Bucaramanga and within a week their was news of another dentist in Aguachica who was shot. Generally, a displaced family is horribly poor but Juan's family was luckier and they rented a large house to live in. After two years they moved back to Aguachica but left Juan's brother, Andres, there to finish school. In Aguachica a new mayor was elected and he tried to pitch a referendum that would make Aguachica a model town in showing how Columbia can accomplish peace. Peace concerts and events were arranged, hundreds attended. Juan became well known for his efforts in getting the youth involved in the earlier referendum, thus making him put at more of a risk. People outspoken for peace were often forced to leave the town due to threats. The majority that voted, 70,000 total, voted against violence and that led to a temporarily more peaceful atmosphere. Hugo, the family's horse trainer back at their farm, was murdered after the farm house had been set on fire and his nephew's own murder; all supposedly done by rebels who didn't like the idea of the referendum.

His Father's Murder

There were warning signs of his father's oncoming murder but they hadn't realized they were signs until after his murder. One day Juan's father and his brother were blocked from going to their farm and threatened by a man with a gun asking when he gets home from school. After that his mother called the Army base and hired three bodyguards to protect him. The guards never showed up so he was forced not go back to school for his safety. The day of his father's murder they drove to his work. There was one regular client inside with a few others, the others are now suspected to be the assassins. Juan's father and his cousin Luche were both shot and brought to the same hospital. When the assassins had ran from the dental office Juan's father came stumbling out and calling for help for Luche. Later, when they were alerted about their father's shooting they were at the doors of the emergency room. His mother was pressed against them while he stood about five yards back. Many people were in the room, friends, other family, even the mayor. The mayor had talked to him and told him that his father would make it, that he had been seen saying he was okay but to get help for his cousin since she was worse off. He believed him, he was important man and how or why would he be wrong? Juan had been busy listening to the mayor and trying to lift his own spirits and hadn't noticed that a doctor had come out to talk to his mother. One of Luche's friends had overheard the doctor talking to Juan's mother and stumbled over and told him that his father had died. Luche was still alive though. Juan's mother had requested a helicopter for their cousin Luche but it came too late and she was already being driven in an ambulance to Bucaramanga. A landslide occurred on their drive to Bucaramanga and Luche did not survive the wait, everyone else in the ambulance survived. Juan blamed himself for his father's murder and believed his publicity had brought the violent killing upon his father.

The Aftermath

A few weeks later they held a funeral and many attended to pay their respects the Juan's family and Juan's father. It rained at the funeral too, an odd thing seeing as Aguachica is normally a very dry place. Nearly a week and a half after the funeral Juan was in his room doing a project, his family in their own rooms. He came down from his bedroom to ask for something from his aunt. However, he did not find his aunt and instead there was a man standing outside the window with a gun. Juan knew he could have gone back up to his room and gotten the gun he had been given and shoot the man but instead he hid behind a pillar and watched. Revenge was a common thing in the war and no one would have been surprised if he had killed the gunman. He had hid because he remembered his father wanting him to be peaceful and shooting the man would result in anything but peace. Moments later, the man walked away without a single shot fired. Not that long after that silent incident Juan threw out his gun.

The Peace Movement

The referendum was what really got him out there in the public's eye since he was one of the people trying to get kids to vote in it. He thought it was only fair because the voting in the referendum also affected kids his age and younger very much, this would be the town they grew up in and if there was violence they could be in danger. The mayor of the town, the one who created the referendum, was the man that introduced the Children's Movement for Peace to Juan. There was a meeting held in Bogota and he attended it with other kids ranging from 9 all the way up to 17. They were all a bit shy and timid that first day but Juan thought it was nice knowing other kids in the country were affected by this as well. On the second day things really came together more. Games were arranged for them to get more comfortable and once they knew each other a bit more they started the real agenda of how to rid the country of violence to the best of their abilities. They sat at tables, all the tables set up so everyone could see and hear one another. There were many adults in the room and that was actually a downfall because the adults tried pointing things out and evidently complicating it without the intention of doing so. After a bit of bickering the adults were asked to leave the room, they all did but the nice lady who had arranged the earlier games. The kids knew it was their generation that would have to stop this war and they found it a lot easier to communicate without so many adults there. The adults were later brought back in and told their plan of action. On the third day it was decided that the kids took charge of everything and the adults would only help organize marches and peace concerts and get the word about them out.

The second meeting was not long after Juan's incident with the gunman but he went. He went and was probably even more empowered to make a change because he realized just how much the war affected people.