Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas is a lay leader working within the Mennonite Church of Colombia and the Colombian Council of Evangelical Churches. Since 1998, he has represented all non-Catholic religious groups on the National Council of Peace, which advises the President of Colombia. He has participated in national and regional dialogues with both legal and illegal armed groups, including the National Armed Forces of Colombia and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Mr. Esquivia is Co-founder and Director of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace of the Evangelical Council of Churches of Colombia (CEDECOL). He is also the Founder and former Director of both Justapaz, the Christian Center for Justice, Peace and Nonviolent Action of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, as well as Sembrandopaz, a peace and development initiative of Protestant churches on the North Coast of Colombia. In 2008, Mr. Esquivia’s lifelong work was honored with the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
For over 40 years, Ricardo has helped conflict-affected communities peacefully reconcile differences and build a better future. Despite his work for peace (or because of it), Ricardo has been repeatedly threatened, baselessly, with detention or legal action. Recently, a key associate of Ricardo’s was arrested on false charges and several others received written death threats. There is also evidence that the military is building a case against Ricardo, accusing him of being a guerrilla allied with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. This threat to Ricardo Esquivia constitutes political persecution and must not stand unchallenged by defenders of democracy and human rights. Public pressure has been effective in deterring the detention of Ricardo Esquivia in the past.
Ricardo remains active in the peacebuilding community and his work has had a powerful and profound impact on Colombia. The organizations Ricardo has founded, including ASINDECO, Justapaz, ASVIDAS, the Network for Development and Peace of the Montes de María Foundation, and Sembrando Paz, have trained countless people across Colombia.