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WCC and Latin American churches express hope for Colombia peace talks

September 21, 2012

GENEVA/QUITO, Ecuador

A public statement applauding steps toward peace talks in Colombia was issued recently by representatives of churches and ecumenical organizations that form the Peace Commission of the Evangelical Council (CEDECOL), the Ecumenical Network in Colombia and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI).

The statement, released on Aug. 28 and responding to an announcement that the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army) were working on a proposal to start peace talks, expressed thankfulness to God and hope for a more peaceful future in the country, which has been wracked by decades of conflict.

The peace talks are scheduled to begin Oct. 8 in Norway and may also include the National Liberation Army (ELN). 

“The people of Colombia deserve peace with justice,” the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), said in response to the ecumenical statement and the potential for peace talks.  “As an ecumenical community, we ask all WCC member churches to pray that the process of peace talks will proceed as soon as possible.”

“Seeking just peace is deeply rooted in the ecumenical movement,” Tveit said, “and it is core to the witness of the church in the world today.”

The statement from the ecumenical and church groups in the region said “this announcement gives us hope that it is possible to stop the armed conflict in Colombia that we have been witnessing for about 50 years.”

“We see this news as God's answer to our prayers, since for many years we have asked that God’s spirit of peace create spaces for dialogue to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means and to enable peace to bring the fruit of justice and respect for human dignity, as announced by the gospel,” the statement said.

The conflict in Colombia has torn the nation apart, with thousands of deaths, widespread human rights violations, the internal displacement of millions of people, disappearances, kidnappings and threats to human rights advocates both inside and outside of the church. 

Recently the WCC expressed its concern about this situation in a letter addressed to the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, calling on the government to take necessary measures to be effective in protecting the life and physical integrity of all people involved in peace initiatives.

Inspired by the words of Matthew 5:9, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God,” the statement issued by the ecumenical movement in Colombia also underlines the importance of the support of the global ecumenical family.

"We ask our confessional partners and the global ecumenical movement to accompany this initiative closely with their prayers and solidarity actions”, because the ecumenical movement’s “experience in building peace in different parts of the world might help in the peace process announced by the Colombian government and armed groups of the FARC and ELN”, the statement read.

The WCC has actively supported important ecumenical responses to the conflict and human rights situation in Colombia, such as the Programme of Ecumenical Accompaniment in Colombia (PEAC), promoted by the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) along with the WCC, ACT Alliance, the Lutheran World Federation and other ecumenical organizations.  The PEAC was modeled on the highly successful Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has also had an extensive accompaniment program in Colombia for several years.

Churches and organizations willing to endorse the statement can do so through miltonmej@gmail.com.

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