These Christmas Lights Are Helping To End A War. Here’s How

Messages of love and hope encourage Colombian FARC guerillas to come out of the jungle and lay down their guns

For more than fifty years, the FARC (revolutionary armed forces of Colombia) has tried to achieve its aims of a Marxist revolution through violence, kidnappings and guerilla tactics. The FARC was established in 1964 as the military wing of the Communist party in the aftermath of a period of fighting between the Conservative party and the Liberal party, which is simply known in Colombia as La Violencia (the violence). Since then, 220,000 lives have been lost in the conflict.

“In my lifetime, I have never lived one day of peace in my country,” says advertising executive Jose Miguel Sokoloff in this heart-warming TED talk. In 2011 the Colombian government hired him to draw up a plan to persuade FARC members to come out of the jungle and demobilize. He saw an opportunity to sway guerrillas’ hearts and minds by decorating Christmas trees with lights, sending personalized messages floating down rivers, and launching a poster campaign featuring mothers of FARC militias. Since then, every Christmas has become an opportunity to communicate with guerilla fighters, and 17,000 rebels have demobilized since this creative (and non-judgemental) project started. The FARC is now in peace talks with the government.

This TED talk is moving, inspirational, and important. It shows that empathy can move mountains, and reminds us of what Christmas is really about: hope, love, forgiveness and compassion. There’s even a very romantic love story thrown in for good measure!

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