Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Peacebuilding Processes and the Catholic Church in Colombia

By Father Darío Echeverri*

To talk about the commitment of the Catholic Church in Colombia in the process of building peace means recognizing the existence of different levels, actors and contexts of intervention. Despite its diversity, they all serve one purpose: “peace, social justice and reconciliation” from the same source and the same way: the gospel.
First, it is particularly significant the silently work performed by priests, religious and communities in every corner of the country. By assuming day by day the accompaniment of their communities in the middle of the armed confrontation, they become the presence of Church and valuable witnesses who walk next to whom today suffer the inclemency of the armed confrontation; forced displacement, crossfire, antipersonnel mines, kidnapping, and forced disappearance, etc.
The first and most fundamental challenge of the Church for peace is there, with communities, with the poor, the victims, the displaced, the families, church members, farmers, children and all those that make up this great family of faith. They are the subject of a patient building of peace and in whom the social justice becomes visible as they are the legitimate protagonists of reconciliation.
However, the scope of the confrontation goes beyond this level and is determined also by political, economic, strategic, ideological and military considerations. It requires a different approach since the interests; contexts, causes and actors involved appear in a different way.
The peacebuilding processes undertaken by the Colombian Conference of Catholic Bishops could be seen as a Church response to the realities of armed conflict, but linked to the same purposes indicated initially: defense of life and the search for peace with social justice.

Given the need to stop the armed confrontation and to avoid the generation of new victims, the church has directed its efforts to promote a negotiated political solution to the armed conflict, humanitarian agreements and respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Likewise, The Church has reiterated that peace requires truth, justice, reparation and forgiveness, recognizing the limitations and tensions inherent to the use of transitional tools to deal with past violations of human rights.