An update from Justapaz on peace in Colombia
Working alongside the organization DIPAZ (Inter-Church Dialogue for Peace), Justapaz reports about their service in facilitating peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC and ELN rebel groups. In 2016, two humanitarian houses were established as safe havens for designing proposals which addressed scenarios involving the end of the armed conflict, responding to cease-fire conditions, and handling hostile situations. The advocacy plan included the management and development of strategic meetings with the parties involved and an advocacy day before the United Nations Security Council in New York.
Two professional teams were installed to protect the civilian population and to ensure the continuation of the bilateral ceasefire. A dialogue was maintained with the parties in Havana, and in the case of the ELN, it was also maintained in the Carcel de Bellavista in Antioquia.
Also in 2016, more than 50 national and foreign religious leaders encouraged table talks between the Colombian government and the ELN. In May, statements were posted detailing the process of peace talks with the FARC, including information on the partial agreements. On June 24, 2016, information on the Bilateral Cessation of Fire was shared as well. One of these pronouncements led the World Council of Churches to make a statement in favor of the peace process in Colombia and to express support for the Colombian churches. Afterward, Justapaz members met with the Peace Commission of CEDECOL (the Evangelical Church of Colombia) to share insights about peace efforts in Colombia.
Following the October 2 vote, Justapaz and the Peace Commission increased their actions to show the relevance of the agreements reached between the FARC and the government. They participated in working groups to make adjustments to the agreements, facilitate conversation with the Colombian government and the FARC, and participated in the Senate plenary to encourage voting in favor of the peace agreements. Justapaz will continue to respond to the current political situation in Colombia, particularly within the framework of implementing peace agreements between the Colombian government and rebel groups.
Jenny Neme, the director of Justapaz, shares these words in describing the current Colombian context and the role and ministry of Justapaz:
“Our vocation for peace calls us to be on the side of the victims. Several churches and church organizations in Colombia have been documenting human rights violations, crimes committed by all armed actors, including government security forces. Furthermore, important work has been done in the areas of psycho-pastoral care, emergency care, and legal support. It has been 30 years that we have witnessed the reality of the armed conflict in different parts of the country, all for the sake of walking with our brothers and sisters who suffer in the territories, and because we also have been victims.
In the midst of the rigor of the armed conflict, churches in different parts of the country have independently developed initiatives for peace, generating hope in their communities.
And we do not just walk with the victims. We have walked with the perpetrators also. We have witnessed how restorative measures allow us to advance in the recognition of the truth of what happened, take responsibility, ask for forgiveness and take non-retaliation measures. The Church has played the role of facilitator of the difficult restorative processes. The services offered by the Church have a high level of personal, community, and ecclesial demand.
There are years of conviction necessary to turn the page of violence of this country. It is a necessity to silence the guns and to assume the promise of God for Colombia. As churches and ecclesial organizations, we will stand with a hope strengthened even in the midst of uncertainty, without giving up our ministry of reconciliation. We will insist until there is no necessity left to do so. To facilitate dialogue, however difficult and improbable it is, we are prepared to reduce those gaps that separate us without renouncing our principles and calling. Likewise, we retain an attitude of prayer and community discernment so that God guides us and continues to offer wisdom. All of this happens so that the end of the armed conflict is made possible and we continue in the way of the construction of the peace.
We are tired of violence. We do not want a cheap peace where more pride and arrogance can lead to fragile conditions that will make democracy and coexistence in the country impossible.”