Colombia Peace Summit, San Andrés Islas, February 2006
First National Summit Conference of Evangelical Christian Churches for Peace in Colombia
San Andrés Island, Colombia
February 13th-17th 2006
First National Summit Conference of Evangelical Christian Churches for Peace in Colombia
San Andrés Island, Colombia
February 13th-17th 2006
Whereas during recent decades in Colombia there have emerged several bodies involved in the armed conflict, the Evangelical churches now raise a prophetic voice calling for peace in our nation. We are an institution with a presence in every corner of the land and which stands ready to offer healing, restoration and a new direction for the hearts of Colombian people, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through finding forgiveness and reconciliation with God the Creator and through the principles and values of the Kingdom of God and the Word of God.
1.1 In the midst of our difficulties and sufferings, we greet our fellow-countrymen with the hope given to us by the risen Lord Jesus Christ, whose word to us is, “Take heart! I have overcome the world”. The church of Christ is an agent of hope, comfort and change that promotes justice, peace and welfare for our country. We invite our Colombian sisters and brothers to seek the Lord while he may be found and to call upon him while he is near, for change and peace in Colombia starts with change in our own lives.
1.2 CEDECOL, the Evangelical Council of Colombia, has been in existence for 56 years and is at the moment the most representative body of the approximately 8,000 Evangelical Christian churches in Colombia. It brings together over 70% of these churches and institutions, which are found in almost every town, village and region of the country and comprise approximately four million Colombians of both sexes.
1.3 The Evangelical Christian churches have been quietly working and praying for many years at the local level, sowing the seeds of peace and welfare in our land. Through the preaching and teaching of the word of God, millions of people have come to sincere repentance of their evil ways and have accepted the good news of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness and salvation and his kingdom of justice and peace. They have congregated in thousands of local churches, from which they seek to transform their lives in community together; they also seek to serve the society in which they live, by means of primary and secondary schools, rehabilitation of drug addicts, youth ministries, enhancement of the position of women, training of leaders, health programmes and other social ministries. To a lesser extent, some Christian groups have worked among displaced people, on conflict resolution, on community development and organisation, on education for peace, on conscientious objection to compulsory military service, and other questions. All this has been carried out in an Evangelical spirit of forgiveness, patience, service and love for our neighbour.
1.4 At the same time, we admit that we have sometimes isolated ourselves from the situation in which we are living and ignored the great concerns and problems that beset our nation. The Colombian churches have been growing gradually more aware of the social and political problems faced by our country, and of the importance of becoming part of the solution. This is the reason that one hundred and ten representatives of different denominations and institutions have now come together from all over the country to attend the First National Summit Meeting, which is being held on the island of San Andrés from February 13-17, 2006.
2 BACKGROUND TO THE PRESENT CONFLICT IN COLOMBIA
2.1 The latest stage of the internal conflict that devastates Colombia has gone on for nearly sixty years. During this period, hundreds of thousands of people have died and the social cost has been incalculable. There have been instances of dialogue, negotiation and demobilisation following approaches between the armed groups and the government, yet none of these have brought the country a lasting peace.
2.2 Estrangement from God and the loss of values that this involves, has led to situations of injustice, social and economic inequality, and to every kind of violence. The government authorities have found no answer to these situations. Although it is true that civil society has endured the consequences of policies and actions on the part of those who exercise power, that same society has elected these leaders and has accepted the proposals they have made – proposals which have had no effect. Yet, despite the fact that positive change achieved now will come too late for the thousands of families who have already suffered irreparable loss, a better future is still possible if the necessary leaders can be found who will act decisively to bring about a radical transformation of the economic, political and social structures of our country.
3 AIMS OF THE SUMMIT MEETING
3.1 GENERAL OBJECTIVE: To create an opportunity for the Evangelical Christian churches to reflect biblically and theologically upon the Colombian situation in order to construct a proposal for peace with social, economic and political justice, and to define strategies and enter into undertakings that will contribute to this end.
3.2 SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES:
3.2.1 To promote the unity of the churches, particularly in the search for peace in Colombia.
3.2.2 To set up networks of solidarity between the Christian communities of our nation and those of other nations, as well as with other organisations which are committed to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Colombia.
3.2.3 To design strategies that will contribute to building a culture of peace that will put an end to the armed conflict and to other kinds of violence that assail the people of this country.
3.2.4 To compile and collate our experience and our reflections, in order to guide our churches in their life of fellowship together and in their actions.
4. THEMATIC PERSPECTIVE OF THE SUMMIT MEETINGIn this summit we have emphasised the present circumstances in which we live, by focusing on six main themes:
4.1 Dialogue, negotiation and demobilisation:
We celebrate every attempt at dialogue between the opposing groups and the Colombian government, particularly when any individual or group gives up the use of weapons to achieve peace, justice and dignity. We encourage the groups – the ELN and the AUC – involved in this process, to continue their efforts in an honest and genuine desire to build a lasting peace in Colombia.
4.1.1 We also call upon the FARC, on other groups that have taken up arms, and on the government to heed society’s cry for an end to the armed struggle, so that we may work together to build a lasting peace that will put an end to the social violence endured by our impoverished and long-suffering people. A first step towards dialogue should be a humanitarian agreement to allow victims of kidnapping to be released. We need to make progress towards building an inclusive society (not forgetting to include also those who are the perpetrators of conflict) which is democratic and participative, and in which there is no fear of armed coercion.
4.2 Forced displacement:
Forced displacement is one of the greatest tragedies experienced in this country. In the last ten years nearly three million individuals have been displaced within Colombia, and in the last twenty years the total has been approximately three and a half million.
4.2.1 The cost to individuals and to society has been enormous. The armed conflict produces displaced people, but what is even more tragic is not only that people are displaced by the conflict, but that in some areas violence is then used to seize their land and gain control of the countryside. In other words, certain people and groups are reaping financial rewards at the expense of millions of others.
4.2.2. When people are displaced, they face a society whose attitude to them is one of indifference or rejection, and, in spite of these people being in urgent need of the comfort and hope offered by the Gospel, even the churches are sometimes no exception. The state too has failed to show the political decisiveness to respond adequately to their needs.
4.2.3 Through reflecting upon this tragedy, we understand forced displacement as a sin committed by people against their neighbours. Far from being the will of God, forced displacement is the result of avarice and the desire to possess what belongs to another, which is denounced in James 4:1-2: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? …You want something but do not get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want….”. Yet God does not abandon displaced people, but is ready to rescue and help them. In each of these people, the churches ought to see the face of Jesus.
4.2.4 This situation therefore demands not only our solidarity with those who have been displaced –that is, the victims – but also that prophetic steps be taken by the churches to denounce the causes of displacement and the government’s neglect of its responsibility towards the victims. This denunciation must also include the announcement of hope, God’s good news, though without making acceptance of the Gospel into a condition for receiving help.
4.3 Truth, Justice and Reparation
We appreciate the initiative taken to establish the Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation, which still has a long way to go but which has put these vital matters on the nation’s agenda in an attempt to heal our country. The Evangelical Christian churches have proposals which are now drawn up and which we trust may contribute to the advancement of this process. The final purpose of our call and proposal is that of reconciliation between all men and women in Colombia, a reconciliation that recognises wrongs that have been done, makes reparation to the victims of crimes, and produces changes in those who perpetrated them. In practical terms, the churches can make a constructive contribution on matters of truth, justice, reparation, forgiveness, and on reconciliation and rehabilitation for both the victims of crimes and the perpetrators.
4.4 The present state of the armed conflict and its effect upon the churches:
We share the suffering of poor communities who are bearing the double burden of the daily struggle for survival and the direct consequences of the armed conflict. Our own churches experience this very situation, especially the rural congregations, the great majority of which are composed of poor and marginalised people. We have heard heart-rending testimonies of the impact of the conflict upon both churches and secular communities. It is important that churches in urban areas should identify with this human tragedy and respond with prayer and practical solidarity.
4.5 International policy
The Evangelical Christian churches are faced with the duty of examining, suggesting and declaring the consequences of international policies that may affect, or contribute to, consolidating an atmosphere of genuine peace.
4.5.1 We propose to the country and to the international community that they should continue to examine and investigate the structural causes of the violence in Colombia, and contribute proposals for solving the armed conflict.
4.5.2 A thorough examination should include matters such as globalisation, the Agreement on Free Trade, the Plan Colombia, the trafficking of arms, the trafficking of drugs, and so on, in order to seek social and economic justice and the general good of our country.
4.5.3 We urge the international community to watch carefully to see that their countries’ policies do not foment the armed conflict in Colombia, but instead promote actions that help us to build peace.4.6 The situation of children facing the armed conflict
The situation of children of both sexes in this conflict is tragic. It is estimated that some 11,000 minors are directly involved with the various armed groups, being forced to handle weapons, to kill, to torture and to take part in kidnappings. Children of both sexes are being sexually exploited and used for labour. Half of the victims of forced displacements are children, who have also been made to witness the massacre and death of their loved ones.
4.6.1 In addition to the armed conflict, there is the violent treatment of both boys and girls by juvenile gangs, by their own relatives within the home and by those who make a profit from exploiting them sexually. It is estimated that some 35,00 to 40,000 minors are trapped in prostitution.
4.6.2 These circumstances lead us to call for the churches to pay greater attention to these problems and to design programmes to protect this vulnerable sector of the population and provide children with opportunities to develop.
5. OUR VISION FOR COLOMBIA
5.1 In the face of the problems and the distress that overwhelm Colombia, and wishing to avoid any facile optimism or blindness to the situation of our country, we desire to formulate an alternative vision for our beloved land. We offer some hints here, but it is the responsibility of the churches to develop the vision by working with God to make it a reality.5.2 Our vision is one of a country where weapons are turned into tools of production, where all can live unafraid and in peace, and where each person can expresses his/her true identity and at the same time show respect for the identities of other people. We believe in fairness and in respect for gender, for ethnic groups, and for different political and religious options and cultures, based on the principle of pluralism. We believe in the possibility of social justice, with a judicial system that functions and that will put an end to rampant impunity; and we believe in public servants who discharge their duties honestly. We believe in respect, fairness and full participation. In the economic area, we believe in opportunities for everyone to have a home to live in and a source of income, with the country’s resources being used for the benefit of all people without distinction or discrimination. We believe in equal opportunities, with everyone having access to health, education and basic services.
6 BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK
6.1 We understand that the violence that assails Colombia is a result of human sin: our estrangement from God and our idolatry that worships the gods of money, power, status, selfishness and avarice and puts its trust in violence. This sin requires individual repentance by each person, a change in our mentality and our patterns of behaviour, and conversion to the Lord God who is rich in mercy.
6.2 We recognise too that sin has expressed itself through our Colombian institutions, in our laws and in our social and national practices. We are aware that the structure of our society rests upon foundations of exclusion, injustice, avarice, impunity, inequality and poverty that need to be altered if there is to be lasting peace. Such things are an offence to God, and we hear again his words to Moses: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people…I have heard them crying out because of their slave-drivers, and I am concerned about their sufferings. So I have come down to rescue them…” (Ex. 3: 7-8)
6.3 When we reflect on the word of God concerning the situation of violence from which we are suffering and the peace that we long for, and in order to guide our work for peace, we have understood that “God is a God of peace, Jesus Christ is the Lord of peace (Eph.2: 14-17), his Spirit is the Spirit of peace, his kingdom is a reign of peace (Rom.14:17), his gospel is the good news of peace (Eph. 6:15) his children are makers of peace (Mt. 5:9). God wills peace, an all-embracing peace that involves the individual, the family, the community, the nation, the world and all creation. It is therefore imperative that we as Christians should play our own modest, but clear and committed, part in the search for peace in Colombia.
6.5 In 2 Chr. 7:14 the Lord invites us to repentance and prayer, promising that “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land”.
6.6 The Word says that peace is built upon a foundation of truth. (Jn.8:32) There can be no peace based on lying and concealment. The truth about the terrible things that our Colombian people have endured should be made known, and those responsible should be identified and made to confront the victims of their actions.
6.7 Truth is not enough, however, for mercy is also necessary. If we need to know the truth, it is not in order to take revenge, but simply to make repentance, forgiveness and healing possible. We need to break the vicious circle of violence that only causes further violence, but this will be achieved not by burying the truth but by discovering it, by taking responsibility for it and by forgiving.
6.8 We understand that forgiveness is not cheap. It is costly, for peace comes only at a price. The price God paid was the life of his Son. It will be hard for the victims to break the vicious circle by offering forgiveness. It will be hard for Colombia to make material reparation and, especially, moral reparation for the great losses that this war has caused its victims. It will be hard for the perpetrators to admit their crimes and in certain cases, to make restitution. Reconciliation requires justice; justice requires repentance; repentance requires restitution, and restitution requires mercy.
6.9 The promise of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is connected with the destruction and burning of “every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood” (Is. 9:5). Peace is built through peaceful action. The Lord asks us to give up relying on the power of weapons and to devote ourselves to serving our neighbour, even if that neighbour is an enemy, with the most powerful instrument in the world, namely love and non-violence.
6.10 In a nutshell, justice, truth, mercy, forgiveness, restoration, love and non-violence are the Biblical guidelines necessary for re-building the fabric of our society, and to reconcile and restore the people of Colombia. (Mic. 6:8)
6.11 Peace demands a changed way of life at an individual level, in order to practise the ethical values of the Kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ taught (Luc. 14:25-27). In view of the bankruptcy of the wrong paths that we have been treading, the Lord Jesus Christ invites all Colombian men and women to take his word seriously, to live according to the teachings that he gives us in the Sermon on the Mount and to live out genuine fellowship between brothers and sisters.
7 FIFTEEN COURSES OF ACTION TO ENABLE CHURCHES AT THE LOCAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL LEVELS TO PARTICIPATE IN WORKING FOR PEACE
This work should be carried out through pastors’ fraternal associations, denominations, churches and the various works of ministry. This is not a strait-jacket, but simply suggests possible ways in which each may become involved, as the Lord leads.
7.1.1 A national survey to measure the effect of the armed conflict upon Christian people7.2 EDUCATION
7.2.1 Teaching in Sunday schools on living together in harmony and on peace
7.2.2 Going into primary and secondary schools, and into universities to give lectures and seminars
7.2.3 Treating Religious Education lessons as opportunities to teach principles and values.
7.2.4 Promoting the value of life, of the family and the community
7.2.5 Providing training for pastors and leaders on questions of peace7.3 PRODUCTION OF MATERIALS ON THE SUBJECT OF LIVING IN HARMONY
7.3.1 For children, young people, adults, married couples, families and ethnic groups7.4 PRAYER
7.4.1 To hold days of prayer at a national, regional and local level
7.4.2 For local churches to devote specific times to praying for peace7.5 MOBILISATION
7.5.1 On certain strategic dates, to call together the members of the local church, the churches in the region and the church nationally.7.6 HAVING A PRESENCE
7.6.1 In peace negotiations and processes
7.6.2 Providing chaplains for schools, prisons, hospitals, the armed forces, etc.7.7 MAKING OUR CHURCH BUILDINGS SUITABLE AS SANCTUARIES FOR CONCILIATION AND PEACE
7.7.1 Training pastors and leaders in conflict resolution
7.7.2 Setting up teams to offer counselling and conflict resolution7.8 INSTITUTING SPECIAL MEMORIAL DAYS
7.8.1 Instituting a national day of forgiveness and reconciliation
7.8.2 A day to pray for all children, both boys and girls
7.8.3 An international day for peace, non-violence and a cease-fire7.9 SETTING UP TREATMENT CENTRES FOR TRAUMA VICTIMS
7.9.1 Training pastors and leaders in treating trauma in children, young people and adults
7.9.2 Especially for widows and orphans7.10 CREATING A CULTURE OF PEACE
7.10.1 Through television, radio, billboards, posters, the Internet and every kind of media, to communicate to our society the principles of peace, forgiveness and living together in harmony.7.11 REPLICATING AND PROMOTING PROJECTS WHICH ARE UNDER WAY IN OTHER REGIONS OF COLOMBIA
7.11.2 Pan y Paz (Food and Peace)
7.11.3 Jueces de Paz (Justices of the Peace)
7.12 ANNUAL REGIONAL SUMMIT MEETINGS FOR PEACE AND A NATIONAL SUMMIT MEETING EVERY TWO YEARS
7.13 CALLING ON SIMILAR AGENCIES OF MINISTRY TO SHARE INFORMATION AND STRATEGIES, AND ENCOURAGING THEM TO INVOLVE OTHER CHURCHES AND AGENCIES.
7.14 BRINGING TOGETHER NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL DONORS FOR A WORKING GROUP TO SUPPORT THE CHURCHES’ WORK FOR PEACE
7.15 SEMINARS ON HOW TO CLAIM LEGAL RIGHTS FROM THE STATE, AND ON POLITICAL ADVOCACY
8 OUR CALL AND COMMITMENT
8.1 Peace is not achieved simply by laying down weapons, but by building conditions, a culture and a spirituality of peace. The Evangelical Christian churches undertake to provide the spiritual foundation for preparing fertile ground for peace, for life in harmony with others, and for social justice.
8.2 We call on the churches to recognise that our mission is to take part in the transformation of our society towards what God wills for it, and to become involved in the formation of new citizens, both male and female, who will constitute the social foundation of a new Colombia where righteousness dwells and where human rights are respected, which consequently will make it possible for all of us to live in peace with one another.
8.3 We commit ourselves to Colombia and to our churches, so that while we wait for the things that are eternal, we may be enabled also, with God’s help, to build the things that are temporal.