The Role of Churches in the Recent Ceasefire Agreement in Colombia
After weeks of uncertainty about the coming peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the latter ordered all of their combatants to cease offensive action from Monday, July 20th, as had been announced on July 8th, 2015. The rebel group stated that the order of unilateral ceasefire is “due to the call of the guarantor countries, Cuba and Norway, and companions, Venezuela and Chile, of the peace talks” as well as a letter signed by 150 ecumenical leaders from the US, Latin America and Europe requesting the end of aggression for the well-being of Colombia.
On the letter addressed to Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, Humberto de la Calle, Head Negotiator of the Colombian Government in Havana, Mr. Timoleón Jiménez, Commander of FARC-EP, and Sir Luciano Marín, Head Negotiator of FARC-EP, dated July 6th, 2015, the ecumenical leaders expressed their sorrow, as Christians and as human beings, in response to the deaths that continue taking place in Colombia, which could have been avoided with an agreement for a bilateral ceasefire. The letter goes on to state: “All lives are sacred, as Pope Francis reminds us in his recent Encyclical Laudato Si’: those of the civilian population, those in nature, those of soldiers and police officers, and those of the guerillas. The government should change their position from refusing an agreement for a bilateral ceasefire to a position in favor of life and the greater legitimacy of the continued dialogues. FARC should return to their willingness and decision to maintain a ceasefire. We call, with the power of the Gospel, for both parties to commit to a bilateral ceasefire and the de-escalation of the confrontation.”
FARC has committed to build confidence in order to respond to the requests from different advocacy organizations for Peace in Colombia, churches, and other interested parties in the oversight of this ceasefire. It was as peace negotiators that FARC met on Saturday July 18th in Havana with representatives of organizations to verify the unilateral ceasefire, including groups like the Frente Amplio por la Paz, University Peace Network and Interchurch Dialogue for Peace (DiPaz).
DiPaz is an on-going process carried out by representatives of churches and faith-based organizations who have been working together over the last several years, and accompanying vulnerable communities committed to peace-building through non-violent action and committed to the quest for justice and truth which will make possible lasting reconciliation in Colombia. They seek to construct and implement a common agenda for our churches and organizations which makes possible public witness by lifting up the direct experiences and lessons learned: through peace-building in communities of faith, through church initiatives in Colombia, and through the work of the international ecumenical movement for peace and reconciliation. Global Ministries´ Partners, Justapaz and the Evangelical Council of Colombia (CEDECOL) ´s Peace and Justice Commission are members of DiPaz as well as other Colombian churches and organizations including the Presbyterian Church in Colombia, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia, the Baptist University and the Latin American Council of Churches´s Faith, Economy, Ecology and Society Programme.
The next steps for DiPaz after collaborating on the recent ceasefire will be focused on documenting and verifying the compliance with the unilateral termination established by FARC and the de-escalation of the confrontation established by the Colombian government in the period from July 20 to November 20, 2015 in conflict areas prioritized by DiPaz. DiPaz will also conduct advocacy efforts and communicate with government and civil society actors to strengthen the peace process and to develop educational materials on one of the trials of the Report of the Historical Commission of the conflict and its victims.
Churches and ecumenical organizations in Colombia and at the International level said in their letter, quoting the WCC Ecumenical Call to Just Peace, “Peace agreements are often fragile, temporary, and inadequate. Places where peace is declared may still be filled with hatred. Repairing the damage of war and violence may take longer than the conflict that caused it. But what exists of peace along the way, though imperfect, is a promise of greater things to come.” We, as Global Ministries, continue our prayers and our commitments with the people of Colombia, so peace will bring better days and greater things.