Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Celebrates Colombian Peace Deal But More Must Be Done for Real "Peace"

Colombia PeaceIn days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.” -Micah 4

 

On Wednesday August 24, 2016 it was announced from the nearly four-year negotiations in Cuba that the Colombian government and the largest guerilla group, the FARC, have reached a negotiated peace settlement. The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship celebrates and applauds this important and historic agreement for the hope it represents. It is a significant milestone in the long process of seeking an end to the armed internal conflict in Colombia that has existed since 1948 and has claimed the lives of well over 200,000 Colombians, over two thirds of whom have been civilians. During this time, over six million Colombians have been internally displaced during this time, creating one of the highest numbers for a country in the world of internally displaced persons (IDP’s). Worldwide figures on displacement show that Syria is ranked as #1, with Colombia as #2 and Iraq as #3 in displacement.  Internally displaced persons are refugees who have not crossed the borders of their country to seek assistance. They are abandoned within the borders of their own country, oftentimes by their own government.   

Even as we celebrate this historical agreement, we must state that we are aware that the FARC are not the only responsible party for these unacceptably high numbers of displacement, murders, extrajudicial killings and in some case, torture. The FARC is estimated by our partners at the Washington Office on Latin America to be responsible for only one-fifth of these crimes of war, with the Colombian military and right-wing paramilitary groups responsible for the other four-fifths of these killings and displacements. As citizens of the United States we lament and confess that in our name and with our tax dollars there has been an overwhelming tendency for billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid for decades to go to military and not peace-building work in Colombia. Some of these U.S. taxpayer funds have found their way in violation of the Leahy Amendment to brigades and paramilitary groups that have been proven over the years to have committed atrocious acts of violence and war. We confess that we are citizens of Empire and so we must acknowledge our complicity in violence and impunity, even as we have actively resisted and worked against it - and to state unequivocally that we remain 100% commitment to nonviolence as the foundational theological act of our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Actions of our own government that have led and continue to lead to the situation in Colombia include but are not limited to, Plan Colombia and the United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. These must be repudiated by those who state that we follow Jesus Christ. We must name them as theologically bereft.

The peace deals announced yesterday still have many hurdles before them. There will be a formal signing ceremony on September 23, 2016 and then the entire package will go to the Colombian people for a national vote. Our partners in Colombia talk of a time now of post-accords - noting that the work of creating a real, lasting and durable peace - one that lives in the hearts, minds and lives of people and communities and which is supported by the governments of our countries is a generational effort.  It is important to also note the ecological impact of displacement, militarism and “free trade” and so as an act of confessional faith to support the peace process in Colombia we call on the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to be held in 2018 in St. Louis, MO, to live into the mandate that was set at the 222nd General Assembly earlier this summer and to complete the process to fully divest all financial holdings of our Church from fossil fuels which drives much of the ongoing conflict in Colombia which will continue well after these peace accords have been signed.  

The 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called on the Colombian government to seek a process of a negotiated peace deal for Colombia. In that same statement the General Assembly called for a permanent suspension of U.S. military bases in Colombia, for members of the PC(U.S.A.) to engage in actions that support peace in Colombia and for members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to continue to visit and monitor U.S. military installations and their effect on Colombia. We give thanks that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) understands the intersectional linkages between peacebuilding and a repudiation of militarism alongside direct acts of nonviolence and advocacy by members of the Church. As followers of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, we are committed to continuing this work of active nonviolence in Colombia through our Accompaniment Program and in resisting ongoing U.S. militarism and so-called “free trade” that continues to inhibit the opportunities for real peace in Colombia.  

We especially give thanks to God for the over 100 accompaniers from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and our ecumenical partners who have and will continue to accompany the Iglesisa Presbteriana de Colombia in the ministry to which God has called them. We are committed to walking side-by-side as we have for the last twelve years with our partners, who are our family, in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia in this ministry for as long as it takes to build the beloved community we seek in both of our countries.

 

For more information:

Action of the 219th General Assembly related to Colombia

2008 Human Rights Report on Colombia, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Statement of the Washington Office on Latin America, August 25, 2016

Statement of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), August 25, 2016

Statement of DiPaz, August 25, 2016

Statement from the Latin American Working Group, August 26, 2016

 

Want to see if traveling to Colombia for a month as an accompanier is right for you? Come to PPF's training October 13-17 in Stony Point, NY.