In what follows, we provide a brief historical account of each one of the teams that currently make up the institution and which contribute a specific focus and type of work.
History of CINEP
The origins of CINEP date back to 1944 when the Colombian Episcopal Conference requested the collaboration of the Society of Jesus in the National Coordination of Social Action.
As a result of this work, in the 1960s, the Society of Jesus created an auxiliary office to the Coordination, known as the Center for Social Research and Action (CIAS, according to its acronym in Spanish), where only Jesuits worked initially, but which later received lay social scientists to collaborate in the technical aspects of the analysis of Colombian reality.
The first projects carried out by CIAS focused on the country’s socioeconomic problems and on their dissemination through lectures or university seminars. Between 1968 and 1972, CIAS worked together with the Social Studies Institute (IDES, according to its acronym in Spanish), and in 1972, at the request of the Episcopal Conference, it ceased managing the National Coordination of Social Action.
Creation of CINEP
As of that moment, both the religious and lay members of CIAS dedicated all their efforts to research and dissemination among popular sectors, because their analysis of national issues had led them to the conclusion that it was necessary to focus their work on marginalized sectors. It was then, in May 1972, that the institution began to exist as a non-profit foundation known as the Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP).
Since its inception, CINEP has sought to achieve a balance between research and the promotion of popular organizations. In this line of thought, its sustained level of reflection has made it possible to carry out a scientific analysis of Colombia’s social, economic, political, and cultural reality, and to contribute to building a more humane and just society through education and the strengthening of organizations formed by the popular sectors of Colombian society.
Thus, CINEP’s first research projects addressed the internal logic of the informal and farming sectors of the economy, as well as the analysis of politics from a socio-cultural perspective. Simultaneously, CINEP consolidated a model for seminars that gave rise to the discussion of issues such as the origins of the labor union movement, which were later incorporated into projects focused on labor union education and popular work, and strengthened work in the field of popular education, starting in the 1970s.
On the basis of the work carried out by its rural team and due to the fact that social protest movements were criminalized in 1979, CINEP felt obligated to undertake the defense of human rights. This line of work, which began with a Human Rights Office that investigated violations and provided counsel for the reporting of and search for disappeared persons, has characterized the center’s work from that moment on.
In 1984, CINEP created the School for Education in Peace and Human Rights, which sought to integrate the educational work in human rights with the center’s accumulated experience in popular education. The first steps toward what would later become the Human Rights Database were also taken, in order to gather organize, and classify data on human rights violations.
In the mid-1980s and together with the Peace Program, CINEP carried out an exhaustive research project aimed at systematizing the activities in pursuit of peace and shedding light on Colombian violence from a macro-structural and long-term perspective that analyzed both the objective and subjective conditions of this violence.
Later on, toward the end of the 80s, the Center shifted toward a more integrated vision of human rights by including economic and social rights, as well as International Humanitarian Law, in its perspective.
History of the Peace Program
In 1986, the Society of Jesus sold a colonial treasure of incalculable worth, the Repository of the Church of Saint Ignatius in Bogotá (popularly known as “the Lettuce”), to the Bank of the Republic. The Society decided to invest the money received in a key project that would address Colombia’s problems and work toward reconciliation, justice, and peace, together with those who believe it is possible to build a country that respects differences, fosters solidarity with poor and marginalized men and women, and lives in peace. Consequently, the year 1987 saw the creation of the Peace Program, an organization whose actions are aimed at working for peace and creating the conditions necessary for the latter to become part of Colombian culture.
With the returns from the fund and the contribution of international agencies, the Peace Program began supporting the projects of communities and organized groups, the organization of training events for the project executors, the design and delivery of materials, and permanent advisory to the initiated projects. Thus, between 1987 and 2001, the Peace Program supported over 150 grassroots organizations, through projects in the fields of education, community development, pastoral action, return to civilian life, social reinsertion, and recognition of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
The Peace Program supplemented these efforts with nationwide work in the context of the Peace Movement, by participating in multiple scenarios and civil society initiatives, and collaborating in the investigation and clarification of the types of violence exercised in Colombia. Likewise, it designed actions in the context of the Society of Jesus and supported different projects in their concrete actions for peace by fostering and motivating the creation of Peace Programs in each of the Society’s schools.
In 2001, after more than 10 years of work, the Peace Program restructured its activities into four lines of action that sought to: design an educational proposal for peace and coexistence (Education for Peace); contribute to the strengthening of the social and citizen movement for peace (Peace Movement); create public opinion in favor of reconciliation and the political negotiation of peace (Public Opinion); and orient, support, stimulate, agree on, and strengthen Jesuit peace initiatives in Colombia (Jesuit Peace Initiatives).
On the basis of its previous experiences, the Peace Program modified its lines of action in 2004, emphasizing the preparation of individuals for an active and participative exercise of citizenship by creating awareness of their permanent interaction with social dynamics; fostering communication and public opinion in favor of peace; promoting reconciliation processes that repair relations within the social fabric, which have been broken by the different types of violence in Colombia; and, finally, strengthening public participation by providing assistance to citizen participation processes that develop peacebuilding mechanisms and strategies.
In 2006, due to the coordination of the social work of the Society of Jesus, the Peace Program and CINEP started sharing facilities and unifying their administration. After a biennial transition plan for 2007 and 2008, a further step toward the final merger is taken with the CINEP/PPP institutional plan for 2009-2011.
History of the Human Rights and Political Violence Database
The first issue of the Justice and Peace Bulletin was published in April 1988, almost at the same time that the Inter-Congregational Peace and Justice Commission, in which CINEP then participated, was founded. The Bulletin continued to provide quarterly information about political violence until June 1996 when it merged with the magazine Noche y Niebla. The latter launched a new phase characterized by more elaborate categories, in conformity with the international instruments defining human rights and the Humanitarian Law applicable to armed conflicts.
In the context of the coordination of the social work of the Society of Jesus and as a result of some changes in the Inter-Congregational Commission, the databases were transferred to CINEP/PPP in 2006, when they became one of the institution’s central projects.