News Items from Colombia
Peace talks resume December 10
5 December 2014
Bogotà (Agenzia Fides) – The Colombian government and FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Forces) will resume peace talks on 10 December. The announcement was made yesterday from Cuba in a joint statement by delegations of both sides. According to information received by Fides, the talks, to last from 10 to 17 Decembe,r will also examine the question of victims of the conflict. The talks were suspended when General Alzate Mora and other persons were taken hostage by FARC, and then released (see Fides 2 December 2014).
On learning the news, Archbishop Luís Augusto Castro Quiroga of Tunja, also president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Colombia, (CEC), commented: “I encourage those involved to set aside any disputes and misunderstanding regarding the kidnapping and then release of those persons, and to focus on what Colombia anxiously awaits, the signing of a peace agreement”.
In an interview given to radio RCN, Archbishop Castro Quiroga recalled that the local Catholic Church, the United Nations and Universidad Nacional are working to select the fifth and final delegation of victims, scheduled to be in Cuba on 16 December. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 5 December 2014)
Satisfaction for the release of the General, but it it necessary to resume talks for a definite peace
2 December 2014
Barranquilla (Agenzia Fides) – After his release and that of other two people who had been kidnapped with him, which occurred on Sunday evening, November 30, General Rubén Darío Alzate Mora held a press conference the following day in which he spoke of the kidnapping by FARC and submitted his resignation. The general said he had violated military protocol, traveling in the area of Chocó, driven by the desire to help the poor communities of the territory: he was in fact working on a project to build power generators along the river. The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, accepted his resignation. Public opinion and politicians are still divided on the matter. Some consider the fact that the general went to a “red zone” without a minimum of security a mistake, and has undermined the peace process. Others believe that the senior officer proved to be a man loyal to his principles and to the armed forces.
Expressing satisfaction for the release of the hostages, the Archbishop of Barranquilla, His Exc. Mgr. Jairo Jaramillo Monsalve, however, claimed he is not in favor of a bilateral ceasefire, proposed by the FARC on 30 November. In the note sent to Fides by the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, the Archbishop recalls that similar past experiences did not have positive results (see Fides 09/12/2013), therefore, he stated that the proposal made by the guerrillas is not considered to be viable. Rather, he reiterated the need to continue the peace talks underway in Havana, between the government and the FARC guerrillas. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 2 December 2014)
Children are half of the victims of landmines and prohibited explosive devices
1 December 2014
Bogota (Agenzia Fides) – Every year the NGO “Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines” (CCCM) prepare a report regarding the victims of this scourge. In 2013, the Latin American Country was the second in the world with the largest number of children who are victims, only surpassed by Afghanistan. According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, the significant increase in the number of child casualties were seen in: Afghanistan, Colombia, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen. In 2013, there were 1,112 child casualties worldwide, including 33 deaths due to landmines, improvised explosive devices, remnants of munitions and military waste. Compared to 2012 there was an increase of 39%.
Out of the total number of children, boys are 84% and girls represent 16%. The main challenges to tackle this scourge worldwide are full assistance to children, and awareness of the population. Compared to the figures of the adults affected (2,403 cases) children represent almost half of all civilian casualties, 46%. Colombia is the third Country in the world with the largest number of child casulaties: 167 cases, preceded by Afghanistan (1024) and Pakistan (175), then Syria (133) and Somalia (65). (AP) (Agenzia Fides 1 December 2014)
Observatory for Reconciliation and Peace is created
29 November 2014
Bogota (Agenzia Fides) – To support peace negotiations with the FARC and to work for national reconciliation. This is the purpose of the Observatory for reconciliation and peace, recognized by the National Conciliation Commission. According to a note sent to Fides by the Colombian Episcopal Conference, on November 27, an agreement to form a new body was reached at the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference (CEC) between the National Secretariat of Social Pastoral of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, Planeta Paz, the Cooperative Viva citizenship, the National Network of initiatives for peace and against war (Redepaz), the Center for research and popular Education/Programme for Peace and the network of programs for Development and Peace, with the support of the United States Foundation for International Development USAID and IOM International Organization for Migration. Thanks to the resumption of talks Peace in Cuba, the Observatory for Reconciliation and Peace aims to support the efforts of reconciliation already existing in Colombia; analyze the characteristics and evolution of the process; have an impact on the territory and regions in what concerns policies, plans, programs, projects and actions in the post-conflict. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 29 November 2014)
Peace talks in Cuba must continue
26 November 2014
Bogota (Agenzia Fides) – Despite their recent statements, FARC show a willingness to continue the peace negotiations underway in Havana: this is what the Archbishop of Tunja, President of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia (CEC), His Exc. Mgr. Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga said. “They say so many things that sometimes we do not like, but the important thing is that when they refer to peace talks they demonstrate reliability and seriousness in their commitment”, said Mgr. Castro Quiroga, according to the note sent to Fides by CEC. A few days ago FARC in fact had publicly stated: “what is happening in Colombia must be solved in Colombia, (…) while dialogue in Cuba must continue”.
On November 24, Mgr. Castro Quiroga met with the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, together with Father Dario Echeverry, secretary of the Commission for National Reconciliation. The meeting was also attended by the chief negotiator of the government team, Humberto de la Calle, Ministers advisers of the Presidency and retired General Oscar Naranjo. After the meeting the Archbishop reiterated the support of the Catholic Church to continue peace talks.
In recent days, Colombia has experienced significant events linked to the path for peace: the kidnapping by FARC of an army general, along with four soldiers and a civilian (see Fides 17/11/2014); the suspension, by President Santos Calderón, of dialogues for the ongoing peace in Cuba (see Fides 18/11/2014); the declaration of FARC, on November 18, of wanting to continue dialogue for lasting peace; the release (yesterday) of 2 soldiers kidnapped along with the general, as a sign of commitment to continue peace negotiations. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 26 November 2014)
The request to continue peace talks: “Do not destroy the hope of Colombians”
21 November 2014
Popayan (Agenzia Fides) – The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, personally announced last night that protocols have been activated for the release of four soldiers and a civilian abducted by the FARC and that immediately after their release, members of the government will return to Havana to continue the peace process (see Fides 18/11/2014). The note sent to Agenzia Fides by Caracol Radio reports that, after a meeting with indigenous communities in Popayan, Cauca Valley, the President announced: “as soon as I see the hostages released, I will give instructions to negotiators to return to Havana” . At the time of the kidnapping in fact the President had suspended peace talks.
The President of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, Archbishop of Tunja His Exc. Mgr. Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, on November 19 issued a statement, also sent to Agenzia Fides, in which he asked President Santos to continue the peace process with these words: “I urge the President to reflect, because he must not allow that the hope of Colombians is destroyed, just like a ceramic plate thrown from the fifth floor”. Mgr. Castro Quiroga had also reiterated the Church’s support towards the government to continue the dialogue of peace as soon as possible. Referring to the indigenous peoples, President Santos noted that “they are those who have suffered most the consequences of war”, therefore there is a great desire in the area to be able to restore peace in Colombia. Santos also announced from Popayan the signing of a presidential decree for the effective protection and legal security of the territories occupied by indigenous ancestors. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 21 November 2014)
Archbishop Monsalve Mejia: “The general kidnapped will soon be released”
20 November 2014
Cali (Agenzia Fides) – “General Rubén Darío Alzate could be released in the next 48 hours”. This is what the Archbishop of Cali, His Exc. Mgr. Dario de Jesús Monsalve Mejia said in an interview with Colombian broadcaster “BluRadio”. The Archbishop claims to have received updated information on the situation of the army officer who has been a prisoner of FARC since last Sunday (see Fides 17/11/2014). “He will soon be back among us. The most important thing is to establish secure, transparent and confidential communication between the parties involved”, he said. Mgr. Dario de Jesus Monsalve Mejia participated, as a representative of the Colombian Episcopal Conference, in various dialogues for the release of hostages in the hands of the “National Liberation Army” (ELN) guerrilla group (see Fides 10/02/2014), and has always expressed himself positively on the peace negotiations under way with guerrilla groups. In recent months he appreciated “the willingness on both sides” and “commitment to dialogue expressed by President Santos”. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 20 November 2014)
Every hour two children are victims of sexual abuse
19 November 2014
Bogota (Agenzia Fides) – According to a recent report published in Bogota on the occasion of World Day for the prevention of child abuse, every hour two are sexually abused. The study, which collects data from the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, reveals that approximately 39 children each day in the country are victims of sexual abuse, 40% of whom occur within their own families. The document indicates that family breakdown, lack of communication with children or the fact that they are looked after by other people because their parents are busy working, are some of the risk factors.
According to estimates by the Institute of Forensic Medicine, out of the total number of children abused examined, 25% takes place in homes. The main victims of this plague are girls from 10 to 13 of age. The alleged assailant is a family member (41%), followed by a known person (22%). In Colombia, where for over 50 years there has been an ongoing armed conflict, sexual violence against children, girls and teenagers go hand in hand with scourges such as poverty, labor exploitation, forced displacement. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 19 November 2014)
The Church condemns the abduction of the General and urges to continue peace talks
18 November 2014
Bogota (Agenzia Fides) – The President of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, His Exc. Mgr. Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, Archbishop of Tunja, has condemned the kidnapping of General Rubén Darío Alzate Mora carried out by the FARC (see Fides 17/11/2014), and called for his release and expressed the hope that peace talks do not stop. “I invite the guerrillas and the government to do everything possible to overcome this situation” said Mgr. Castro Quiroga in the note sent to Agenzia Fides. Upon confirmation of the kidnapping, President Juan Manuel Santos suspended peace talks taking place in Havana, until the FARC release the general and the people that are with him. The Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, through his Twitter account has asked the government and the guerrillas “wisdom and prudence, to overcome what prevents the achievement of peace”. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 18 November 2014)
Peace talks have been suspended after general abducted
17 November 2014
Chocó (Agenzia Fides) – The Colombian government has suspended peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), after an army general was taken captive, in the west of the country. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos informed that negotiations are suspended until the circumstances of the abduction of General Rubén Alzate, attributed to the guerrillas of the FARC are clarified. According to information sent to Agenzia Fides, the incident occurred yesterday, when the General of the “Fuerza de Tarea Conjunta Titán” was surveying a rural energy project in Quibdó (Chocó). It is the first time in a half-century of fighting that the guerrillas have taken an army general captive. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 17 November 2014)
From victims of violence to the protagonists of peace
13 November 2014
Bogota (Agenzia Fides) – The project to have a clear and effective “place” in the process of rebuilding peace in Colombia, was proposed at the end of the fifth meeting of the Association of Victims of the conflict in Colombia. Five delegations went to Cuba to participate in the peace talks between the government and the FARC (see Fides 10/02/2014), and five meetings were held on the return of each group. In the last, at the headquarters of the Colombian Episcopal Conference (CEC), what was proposed was to define the role of this important association created by the countless meetings among victims of the armed conflict in the country, which has lasted for 50 years. Families and some surviving victims in this sad story of fraternal war, have become points of reference for millions of Colombians who believe in democracy and peaceful coexistence, and represent a part of the solution to the national problem. The note sent to Agenzia Fides by CEC reports the impressions of Marisol Garzón, Jaime Garzón’s sister, the journalist murdered in 1999: “It gave me great joy to know of the involvement of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, because it offers a significant sign of seriousness of the process”. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 13 November 2014)
“Cali is suffering a pandemic of violence”, denounces Mgr. Monsalve Mejía
6 November 2014
Cali (Agenzia Fides) – “Cali is suffering a pandemic of violence”, denounced the Archbishop of Cali, His Exc. Mgr. Dario de Jesus Monsalve Mejia, with regards to the alarming increase in homicides in the region. The police report states that in Cali in 2014 so far 1,229 people have died due to weapons (firearms or knives), of whom 155 are minors (147 males and 8 females).
The note sent to Agenzia Fides, reports the Archbishop’s appeal to the government so that it responds with urgency and determination, “without looking for excuses”. “More drastic measures have to be taken that lead to a disarmament of citizens or prohibit, under threat of harsh sanctions, the fact of carrying arms”, said the Archbishop. The Archbishop of Cali pointed out that the population stays locked up at home for fear of violence, and has asked the State to involve the people more, urging them not to remain indifferent to these criminal acts. Mgr. Monsalve Mejia also emphasized that the Church continues its pastoral support for victims, and urged the community to continue to support those who suffer with prayer and solidarity. In Colombia, the same violent situation is experienced in other regions. A few days ago, His Exc. Mgr. Julio Hernando García Peláez, Bishop of Istmina-Tadó, denounced threats against the indigenous population of the region of Chocó. Some situations are related to the past, and there has been no change, despite promises made (see Fides 11/07/2014). (CE) (Agenzia Fides 6 November 2014)
Peace in Colombia: “If we do not reconcile, we are building upon sand” (Video)
4 November 2014
The Church in Colombia helps organize meetings between victims to promote reconciliation. ROME, November 04, 2014 (Rome Reports) – To view the video click here.
The Colombian dioceses ask to defend the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific
29 October 2014
Quibdó (Agenzia Fides) – The Bishops of the Pacific region of Colombia (Dioceses of Quibdó, Istmina-Tadó, Guapi, Tumaco, Buenaventura) and a group of NGOs submitted a request to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) so that adequate measures are taken to protect indigenous and Afro-American communities in this area of Colombia. The Bishop of the Diocese of Quibdó, His Exc. Mgr. Juan Carlos Barreto, speaking to the local press, acknowledged the good intentions of the State, but also stressed that there is very little progress regarding the protection of the rights of this population.
The note sent to Agenzia Fides reports the words of the Bishop: “One does not solve a problem that has been going on for decades with $ 400 million. In the past, development plans were launched that did not work, and the community was not consulted. A serious and verifiable process is needed”. The head of the Regional Coordination of the Colombian Pacific, Leyner Palacios, publicly said that this request was made for the difficult living conditions of the communities, which continue to be the target of violence by paramilitary groups, guerrillas, drug traffickers, and even government forces. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 29 October 2014)
“We hope peace is near” says Cardinal Salazar Gómez
17 October 2014
Pereira (Agenzia Fides) – During his visit to the city of Pereira, the Colombian Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogota, spoke of the seriousness of the peace process, hoping that the ELN is able to enter into peace talks. In a note sent to Fides by the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, the Cardinal reaffirms the commitment of all Colombians to achieve complete and lasting peace. The Cardinal reiterated: “It is very difficult to judge from the outside how the peace process is being handled. I can say that I have confidence in the seriousness of the government, which is doing everything possible to bring forward the peace process, with all the seriousness of the case. At the same time I also trust in the seriousness of the FARC”. For these reasons, the Cardinal said: “We hope peace is near”. Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, visited the city of Pereira, where he gave a lecture at the Catholic University and presided over a Mass in the Cathedral, dedicated to Our Lady of Poverty and met the entire population. The next round of peace talks, scheduled for October 20, has been postponed, as mutually agreed to October 24, due to the lack of time needed for the preparation of the session, which continues to develop the fourth point of the dialogue: “Recognition and compensation of victims of the conflict”. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 17 October 2014)
The Auxiliary Bishop of Medellin: “We cannot get used to violence”
8 October 2014
Medellín (Agenzia Fides) – Less than a week after the violent death of Father Andrés Duque Echeverry, stabbed at the exit of the underground (see Fides 06/10/2014), Fides Agency received the testimony of His Exc. Mgr. Edgar Aristizábal Quintero, Auxiliary Bishop of Medellin, who addressed words of comfort to the family and the parish community of San Buenaventura, located in the municipality of Bello, where the priest was pastor.
The Bishop asked everyone to put aside the desire for revenge and think as Christians, to pray to God for the family and the nation, to react with a different attitude: “We cannot get used to violence, it is sad to see what is happening, but we cannot accept this situation of deterioration in the country. If we truly want peace, we must follow the path of reconciliation”. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 8 October 2014)
Another priest killed for armed robbery
6 October 2014
Medellin (Agenzia Fides) – “With pain and discomfort, the Archdiocese of Medellín expresses its deep sense of sorrow for the violent death of Father Andrés Duque Echeverry on October 3, 2014”. This is what is stated in the press release of the Archdiocese of Medellin , of which a copy was sent to Fides Agency, regarding the violent death of another priest in Colombia, in Medellin. Fr. Andrés’ funeral was celebrated on Saturday, October 4, with the participation of the auxiliary Bishops of the archdiocese and many other priests. Father Andrés Duque Echeverry was ordained a priest on November 25, 1995, and served the parish of San Buenaventura, located in the municipality of Bello for 4 years. “We deplore these facts that threaten human life, we implore God that these painful events do not happen ever again in our city” says the statement of the Archdiocese.
An initial police report refers that father Andrés was the victim of a robbery which ended badly, and was stabbed at the exit of the underground. His body was taken to the morgue and his identification was delayed because he had been robbed of everything, including documents and other personal belongings. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 6 October 2014)
Members of the third delegation of victims set off for Havana to meet with FARC representatives
2 October 2014
Bogota (Agenzia Fides) – Yesterday, October 1st, the United Nations, the Catholic Church and the National University published the names of members of the third delegation of victims of the armed conflict in Colombia, that have started to meet with the FARC in Havana, as part of the peace talks in progress. The note sent to Fides Agency by Radio Caracol, Colombia, reports that this third delegation is a highly mixed group: civil servants, guerrillas and paramilitaries. After meeting with the FARC and the government negotiators present in Havana, most likely the group will hold a press conference to talk about the meeting and their position on the peace process. Some UN representatives and the National University will be with them.
The Episcopal Conference of Colombia (CEC), the United Nations (UN) and the Universidad Nacional of Colombia are responsible for the coordination of meetings with the victims’ families during these peace talks in Cuba (see Fides 18/08/2014). As part of the talks the points which concern rural development (see Fides 11 August 2013), political participation (see Fides 31/03/2014), the problem of drugs and drug trafficking (see Fides 17/05/2014) have already been approved. In August, the issue regarding the delivery of weapons on behalf of the guerrillas and, for the first time, a final bilateral ceasefire had already been faced. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 2 October 2014)
Ex-guerrilla fighter and victim from Colombia show the power of forgiveness (Video)
26 September 2014
For a brief moment, they had time to share their stories with Pope Francis. They are a victim and an ex-guerillia fighter from Colombia, who arrived together to the Vatican to show the power of forgiveness. ROME, September 26, 2014 (Rome Reports) – To view the video click here.
The Week for Peace becomes “Year of Peace” in Cali
13 September 2014
Cali (Agenzia Fides) – With the slogan: “For peace, what can I do?” For the Week of Peace in Colombia, the Archdiocese of Cali has decided to create a standing committee of “ALIADOS POR LA PAZ”, that will work for social initiatives throughout the year. The purpose of this standing committee is to work to rebuild the social fabric in Cali, in order to transform a violent reality that unfortunately the areas of Santiago de Cali live, says the note sent to Fides. The committee brings together people from the private sector, government, the world of culture, the Church, grassroot groups and others who seek concrete proposals in order to allow the creation of scenarios for peace through inclusion and social dialogue, pluralism, coexistence, reconciliation and forgiveness. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 13 September 2014)
Week for Peace in Colombia
Pax Christi – The 26th edition of the Week for Peace in Colombia was held from 7 to 14 September 2014 with activities from civil society to mark the commitment for a sustainable peace for Colombia and to share experiences on art, culture of peace, politics and many other issues related to our struggle for peace.