By Adriana Arrieta Peace remains elusive in Colombia. Over 45 years of civil war has forced one in ten people from their homes today. Every day a Colombian is stripped of his belongings, his home or his life. His dreams, desires, and hopes are stolen. Many are forced to migrate to another city in which they can live in peace. Others have no choice but to abandon the country, in hope of fleeing from all the problems that afflict them and with which the government has been unable to help with. Figures from the NGO Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES) show 280,000 people were forced from their homes in Colombia in 2010 alone. They say Colombia has the highest combined internally displaced and refugee population in the world ( 5.28 million). It is a huge humanitarian crisis that most of the world has forgotten, and “international public awareness about the gravity of our [...]
You’d be forgiven for thinking that four million people forced out of their homes, up to 30,000 “disappeared” and 6,000 maimed by landmines would keep the crisis in Colombia on the front pages. Yet the story of Colombia’s 40 years of conflict and the price people like Luz Mila and her family have paid is now rarely reported. Luz Mila struggles through tears to tell her story. It is one of terror, suffering and loss: “ The second time the heavily-armed woman guerrilla told us to leave, I asked what about our farm, our animals? She told me that I could replace my animals, but not my children. I knew then there would be no third warning. We would be killed.” Luz had already survived both the guerrillas and the army terrorising her family inside their house. Luz and her three children fled to a shantytown house of bamboo, mud and [...]
Caritas calls for solidarity with the people of Colombia as the country prepares to celebrate “Peace Week – La Semana por la Paz”. Millions of people have fled their homes and many have been killed or maimed in the forty-five year plus internal armed conflict in Colombia. It is a massive humanitarian crisis that has largely been forgotten by the world. “Colombia shares the tragic situations of other countries such as the mass displacement in Congo, the devastation of landmines suffered in some Asian countries and the insecurity of Haiti and yet there is very little awareness about the seriousness of our situation,” says Msgr Hector Fabio Henao, secretary general of Caritas Colombia. “In the midst of a conflict such as ours, people feel abandoned and isolated from the rest of the world. Cooperation and support has an enormous impact on these communities. It helps them feel part of one family and [...]
Caritas is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bishop Jaime Prieto Amaya , President of Caritas Colombia. Msgr Prieto, 69, Bishop of Cúcuta died in Bogotá last night on 25 August following a serious illness. “Msgr Prieto was dedicated to bringing peace to his country. Right up until the final months of his life he worked hard for justice on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Colombia,” said Lesley-Anne Knight, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis. He was passionate about encouraging reconciliation in Colombia, where there has been a civil war for decades. The war has uprooted millions of people and led to many deaths and cases of human rights abuses. This year Msgr Prieto travelled to a number of European countries to lobby Governments to support the peace process in Colombia. But he believed that the responsibility for bringing peace back to his land was in everyone’s hands. At [...]
More than three million people have been forced from their homes in Colombia. Fighting continues to affect people from all walks of life. The large number of displaced people hinders efforts at making peace. While Colombia has the second largest number of internally displaced people in the world after Sudan, it still does not have the UN Security Council’s full attention. In May, Caritas members from Europe, North America and Latin America went to NewYork to advocate for greater protection for civilians in Colombia. They met individual members of the Security Council, the General Assembly and UN agencies. “We urgently need political will from the Security Council, neighbouring countries and the Government of Colombia to address the root causes of the conflict,“ said Caritas Internationalis Permanent Delegate to the UN, Joseph Donnelly.
For some people, life’s certainties don’t even stretch to the safety of a home. Fighting in Colombia between rebels, paramiliatries and the Government for over 45 years has forced millions of people to leave their homes to seek safety. “When I was a child, I heard rumours about war and people killing each other, but I never thought I we would be involved,” said Alfonso Guerra, who has had to abandon his home due to the fighting. The war that has rumbled on for decades in Colombia has not only forced millions of people to leave their homes to save their own and their family’s lives, but they also face the threat of kidnapping, torture and the risk of landmine injury. The war that seemed so distant when he was a child, finally reached his hometown of Villanueva, Guajira when Mr Guerra was a father and husband. “A shootout broke near my house. [...]
When Colombia’s war reached Eva Mape’s home town and her apartment block was blown up, she realised it was time to leave. “We had no choice but to go. The only things we managed to save were some clothes that were outside,” says Ms Mape. Her story echoes that of millions of Colombians who over the past 45 years have lived in terror of a war between the Government, rebels and paramilitaries. After going to several different places, Ms Mape finally settled in Ibagué, central Colombia. “We decided we were going to stay here... even if we had to live under plastic sheeting,” she says. Caritas helped Ms Mape and others in her community organise themselves into groups so they could face their difficult situation together. This helped them believe they could take control of their lives. Caritas also offered the community livelihoods training. “With all the training Caritas has provided we feel empowered, because [...]
A forty-five year war, millions of displaced and millions of lives damaged by killings, kidnappings, landmines and fear. This is Colombia and this is the place where Caritas is working to ensure “Peace is Possible”. Caritas is there for the people of Colombia with material and moral support. Caritas also lobbies the Government and international community on the issue of peace in Colombia. Peace is Possible is not just the name of a Caritas Campaign, it is also our hope for the future of this rich and diverse country which could offer so much to Colombians. Caritas has called on the Government of Colombia to live up to its international obligations to those who have lost their homes. The Colombian government must also ensure that the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, and indigenous populations are protected. Caritas says widespread violations committed within Colombia such as extrajudicial killings must be thoroughly investigated, [...]