Merging survey data from the Colombian AmericasBarometer 2018 with the number of violent incidents and peace initiatives that have taken place in the respondents’ respective departments of residence, this analysis attempts to improve understanding of social and contextual factors that inform individuals’ attitudes in post-conflict societies. For this purpose, I develop a theoretical framework by reviewing previous research on the effects of violence, the relationship between violence and peace activism, and how these factors may contribute to a sense of agency and readiness to reconcile with former perpetrators on the part of civilians. Subsequently, I conduct a statistical interaction analysis to test if and how the prevalence of violence and peace protests inform reconciliation attitudes regarding former fighters of the two biggest guerrilla groups FARC and ELN.
Contrasting the common narrative of helpless and revengeful victimised communities, the present data suggests that the more violence per population of a department, the higher its prevalence of initiatives for positive peace. Furthermore, while readiness to reconcile cannot be predicted by prevalence of violence alone, combining it with peace protests has a positive effect on attitudes regarding reconciliation with both guerrilla groups. Even though this impact is rather moderate and only applies for some types of peace initiatives and the dichotomy “any peace protest vs none”, the findings illustrate that contextual factors and civilian agency cannot be neglected in our understanding of civilian perspectives and political behaviour in post-conflict scenarios.