Peacebuilding in Colombia: Interview with Msgr. Hector Fabio
Msgr Hector Fabio Henao says that Colombia is the top place in the world for landmine accidents. It may also be one of the top places for peace initiatives, he says.
The Church supports and guides Colombians in their struggle for peace (Credits: Hough/Caritas)
As Caritas Colombia Secretary General, Hector Fabio is dedicated to bringing peace to a country wracked by over 40 years of violent civil conflict.
“The scar that the conflict has inflicted on Colombian society is very deep,” says Hector Fabio.
The Church is trying to heal that scar through mediation and facilitation, but also by teaching a culture of peace.
One aspect of the Church’s ongoing work towards peace is Caritas’ Peace is Possible campaign. Msgr Hector Fabio says the campaign has been instrumental in mobilising Colombians to commit to the idea of peace.
“[The campaign] has made Colombians aware that they are not alone because they have the support of the Caritas network,” says Hector Fabio.
Hector Fabio says that Caritas in Colombia also lobbies the Government to improve the lives of the of those who have fled their homes because of violence and who have been affected by landmine accidents.
“In the past, we have worked hard with other organisations to bring about a displacement law,” he says.
Caritas Colombia is currently working to get the Constitutional Court to evaluate the impact of Government help on people who have been uprooted by the violence, says Hector Fabio.
It also works side by side with the victims of the conflict, providing a safe environment for them when they have lost their homes and helping them set up projects where they can earn some money and gain independence.
Caritas offers a reassuring presence and gives support on practical issues, such as helping people navigate bureaucracy if they want to ask for compensation. Caritas provides psychological support which may come either from the clergy or from a trained psychologist.
Hector Fabio says the international community has a vital role to play in Colombia’s peace process, and it can act as a bridge between the various parties.
He says that for the past eight years, the international community, along with the Colombian Government, civil society and Caritas, has been engaged in dialogue known as the London-Cartagena-Bogota process to discuss cooperation in achieving peace.
The process provides a forum for the discussion of human rights and humanitarian issues.
Hector Fabio ensures that the Colombia peace process is kept high on the international agenda.
At the beginning of October 2008 the UN’s refugee agency invited him to Geneva to attend their Executive Committee in recognition of Caritas’ work in helping those who have lost their homes.
The month before, he was in Stockholm to highlight the Church’s peace-making activities; and at the end of October, Hector Fabio attended Caritas’ Colombia working group meeting.
“The group offers important support in our work on democracy, justice and peace,” says Hector Fabio.
The efforts of the Church in Colombia to build peace are contained in a book which Hector Fabio has just published. “Caminar en la esperanza” gives an overview of what the Church has learned in the past few years of conflict.
“We know that the suffering of the people affects the whole human family,” says Msgr Hector Fabio, “the solidarity of Caritas is a sign of God’s love, which reaches the poorest people and raises them up to more human living conditions.”