Taking stock of a #Study #Abroad experience to reflect on the past towards a brighter future

This month has been hectic to say the least, as final exams has had everyone on edge and the temperamental weather has not helped much either. But believe it or not, it is the best time to step back, calm down, and be grateful. I think sometimes we forget how fortunate we actually are, and we get caught up and stressed out in our own little world. During this time, I decided to take advantage of the rare sunshine, and even out my tan lines before I go back to the states in a few months. Knowing my siblings, they will absolutely make fun of me for them, I kid you not. Now you may ask yourself, “Emmeline, how are your tan lines so uneven?” It’s a simple answer, the sun is my frenemy, he gives and takes as he pleases, and definitely likes messing with me. 

            In all seriousness, there is a reason behind my disastrous tan lines, you see I decided to protest on a sunny Saturday near Stephen’s Green. Why attend a protest? Because here in Ireland, one has the right to peacefully protest without worrying about losing their life or being abused by the Gardai. You read that right. In Colombia, the situation started with unfair tax reforms, and even though that tax reform was later not passed, the protests continued. The reason being that civilians were killed, sexually assaulted, or reported missing due to police abuse of power. The government thought it would be a good idea to financially squeeze the working class who were already barely making ends meet, as coronavirus death and cases were rising, and vaccination rollouts have been less than subpar.  

            As someone who has lost family members to senseless violence in Colombia, all this was bound to happen at some point. My experience is not unique, everyone in Colombia has a tragic tale to tell related to the mindless bloodshed. There is no perfect government but working-class people here in Ireland live a better quality of life than those of the working-class in Colombia. Now our current governing leaders in Colombia, instead of taking accountability for the police brutality, have tried to spin the narrative by saying paramilitary groups have infiltrated the protests. While that could be the case, it does not make any of these things sound any better does it? Although saying all this, the Colombian government can’t hide all these atrocities, even though they have tried (they have been cutting internet connection at certain times in certain cities). Usually the violence takes place at night, but it can also happen during the day too. One only has to do a search of #SOSColombia to see what it really occurring. Be aware though, it is not something for the lighthearted, you will see children being teargassed, people beaten, amongst worse images and videos of the reality happening. The sad thing is that this is nothing new, our Republic was born in blood, and our blood has been continued to be spilled since then. There are few families in Colombia that control everything, and act in self-interest, instead of lifting up the country. The people just want the opportunity to live life with access to basic human rights instead of being treated like disposable cattle by the elites. 

            So, what can one do to help from Ireland? Students in Colombia are losing their lives, we as students at Maynooth have a responsibility to take advantage of our voices and help those who need it. Show up to the protests, bring awareness to the situation at hand by sharing news and media via social media. Donate to the cause and share petitions too. There are people in need in Colombia, whether it be mothers who have lost their children, or farmers who have had their livestock stolen. Ireland knows firsthand what it’s like to live under a tyrannical government. When Colombia was fighting its war for independence against the Spanish, more than 1,000 Irish volunteers came to assist. Those descendants still live in Colombia to this day, and we are asking once again for that same support.  

This blog post was written by Emmeline, one of our bloggers who contributes regularly to this blog. All views expressed in this blog post are entirely Emmeline’s and hers alone and do not represent the views of Maynooth University.

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