Catholic Peacebuilding Initiatives in Colombia
Many initiatives and programs enable the Church to defend and promote human rights within Colombian society, especially of the most poor and excluded. The Church has made a commitment to contribute to a peaceful solution to the conflict by constantly denouncing violations of human rights—whatever their source.
Bishops’ Peace Committee
Founded initially as Church’s Peace Commission at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s annual meeting in 2002, the Committee is headed by the President of the Bishops’ Conference in office. Consisting of about fourteen Bishops, the Commission has three sub-commissions, with different Bishops assigned to discretely offer moral guidance and support to the negotiations with the AUC, the ELN, and the FARC. The Commission is responsible for carrying out special missions in the conflictive zones where the armed actors are the strongest. It played a major role as a facilitator/witness during the talks with the AUC and has accompanied as a witness and guarantor in talks with the ELN.
The National Conciliation Commission (Comisión de Conciliación Nacional, CCN)
The National Conciliation Commission (CCN) was established in August 1995 at the initiative of the Colombian Conference of Bishops. It has been composed of fifteen members, including former Ministers of State, trade unionists, journalists, businessmen and university scholars united in serving the country in the pursuit for peace. It has included prominent actors in peace negotiations.
The commission was designed to offer “good offices” in order to bridge gaps between the government and rebels by creating confidence in and building consensus among society, devising and proposing components of peace agreements, and motivating society to participate in the construction of peace.
Week for Peace (Semana por la Paz)
Since 1987, the Week for Peace (Semana por la Paz) is an annual event in September supported by civil society to call for peace, justice and human rights protection within Colombia. This week mobilizes and educates the Colombian public to increase peacebuilding within the country and work towards increased forgiveness, solidarity, social justice and reconciliation. Catholic Relief Services provides materials for Week for Peace solidarity events.
The Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP) – Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular
A prominent and active organization in Colombia, CINEP was founded by the Jesuits and has sought to promote a variety of activities in the promotion of peace, human rights, and regional development. In addition to serving as resource for many researchers, it has kept the most comprehensive database of human rights violations and incidences of violence in the entire country. Additionally, it has been very active in initiating conflict-sensitive development programs in disparate regions of the country along with sometimes controversial autonomous peace communities.
The Program for Peace – Programa por la Paz
The Program for Peace was established by the Jesuit Community in Colombia and seeks to contribute to the generation and formulation of a culture of peace, through working to form active and participative citizenship, transforming and constructing favorable social representations of peace, promoting reconciliation processes that reconstruct social fabric, and strengthening the impact of social organizations on regional and national political dynamics.
The Program for Development and Peace of Magdalena Medio (PDPMM) – Programa de Desarrollo y Paz del Magdalena Medio
Founded in 1995 by CINEP, the program has since become autonomous under Fr. De Roux and constitutes the largest program in the country which is attempting to transform the economies of war in one of the most violent regions of the country. It has received substantial support from the European Union and the World Bank.
National Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation – Acuerdo Nacional por la Paz y la Reconciliación
This agreement was presented to the nation by the National Conciliation Commission (CCN), at the Colombian Bishops’ headquarters. The agreement is designed to be used when conducting talks with different groups of the Colombian society in order to reach a consensus about the points that should be the basis of a peace and reconciliation policy in Colombia.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
CRS has worked in Colombia for more than 50 years. In 2000, in response to increased violence and widespread suffering, CRS supported the formation of the In Solidarity with Colombia program, a joint program between CRS Colombia and the Catholic National Secretariat for Social Ministry-Caritas Colombiana.