For the past 60 years Colombia is locked in a permanent state of war. In a system in which the needs and concerns of the campesinos were not taken into account, armed groups emerged, to forcibly build a fairer system. In these sixty years the political situation in the country has changed and so has the attitude of the guerrillas. The political machinery has become more democratic. There are more democratic mechanisms that allow the people to demand their rights. However, those who try to enforce their rights will continue to be persecuted. In these years, even a tightening of persecution of human rights workers, lawyers, trade unionists, journalists and claimant smallholders has occurred. But it is less visible in the media and among the population. The people are tired of armed conflict, but put the blame largely on the guerrillas and their attacks against the state and civil society. There is a considerable resistance to the peace negotiations, fueled by the political right.
Call and search for peace
In the autumn of 2012, the government of Manuel Santos commenced discussions with the FARC guerrillas. The parties agreed on certain relevant themes for a future peace treaty (reforms in favour of the landless rural population, etc.). Amid further armed conflict, under tough negotiations, they gradually achieved agreements that make a future peace treaty more conceivable.
Peace building in the post-conflict society
Even if the armed groups should lay down their arms that does not mean that peace will move into the country. The agreed changes will have to be implemented in the country to heal the wounds inflicted in interpersonal relationships over the many years in the local (mainly rural) communities. People will have to gradually overcome thoughts and feelings of hatred and revenge and be motivated again to dialogue and mutually accept their former enemies and to reintegrate them into society. Beyond the demand for human rights the willingness for reconciliation is pending, so that a lasting peace is achieved. A challenging task!
Bethlehem, a sign of peace.
Who, if not the Christians, should take up this task. Colombia is a Christian, though no longer a Catholic country. The word of Jesus “if anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” calls here for concrete action, if the goal of peace shall be achieved.
Bethlehem as the place of the Incarnation of God reminds us of the message of the angels: Peace on earth, Jesus the bringer of peace. We at the Bethlehem Mission Society feel happy, to have this call to peace through our name as heritage. No longer through the members of our community, but through people in their own country, who in the same spirit – in their life – want to contribute to peace in the land.
With much hope – and at the same time sufficient realism – we support and encourage the woman who, after cooperating with SMB members in Colombia,is now enrolled in a training course for peace work at the Swiss Peace Institute in Basel. This way we are fortunate to be able to contribute to the search for peace in our sister country Colombia, where many missionaries of our community – in their challenging tasks among the fringe population – have spread signs of hope for years.
Monica also grew up in this severe conflict situation and later worked as anthropologist in this very atmosphere of constant threats. She wants to contribute her skills to her people in their search for peace – a search for peace not on the basis of an armed struggle with winners and losers – but through dialogue and awareness raising, bringing the whole people in all walks of life to feel responsible for peace in the land.
The Bethlehem Mission Society offered Monica help in preparation for her studies. Proficient retired English teachers taught her the necessary English. Her experiences in pastoral ministry of the indigenous population in southern Colombia are valuable prerequisites for successful peace work. As Monica’s motivation and goals to work towards peace match the missionary objectives of the SMB, we want to support her in her project.
If you wish to support this project, we will be very grateful. God reward you.
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Working for peace in Colombia