Colombia: peace is possible
Even though violence and insecurity have forced over 3.5 million people from their homes, making them more vulnerable to human rights violations, poverty, and disease, international interest in what is happening in Colombia is marginal. Caritas believes it has a moral imperative to keep the story alive and to galvanize the international community to take action and to support the goals for achieving a negotiated and just peace set out in the “Peace is Possible in Colombia” campaign.
Fr Hector Fabio of Caritas Colombia addresses a press conference on the conflict in his country
Creating a lasting peace is about more than just getting the high ranks of the paramilitaries and the guerrillas to sign a peace agreement.
Fabio Benavides of Caritas Colombia says for peace to hold, there must be reconciliation so, through peace communities, Caritas - the social department of the Colombian Catholic Church - aims to create an environment for peace.
Mr Benavides says: “Peace is not just a piece of paper. It's about reintegrating former armed actors who have committed crimes into communities to ensure that the cycle of violence does not reignite. Without justice and reconciliation, we can't move towards peace."
Caritas seeks to promote peace and reconciliation, defend human rights, assist the victims of the conflict and support the most vulnerable on the ground.
Caritas analyses government policy and provides recommendations for improving strategies through its advocacy work .Trying to build communities of peace is just one part of the puzzle in rebuilding peace. The aim is to create an environment in which over three million people in Colombia that fled their homes feel safe to return.
Mgr. Hector Fabio Henao is Director of Caritas Colombia. He said, “In recent decades the church has been working very hard with people in the shanty towns, in very poor conditions. The people feel that the Catholic Church has the right to speak because it has testimonies. It has suffered with the people.
“It has achieved the right to be involved in justice and peace because it is really committed in that,” he adds. “When people are forced to move from their homes and communities, they go to Catholic parishes for advice and help. They go to the church because they feel it is open and they will be secure there. It reaches right to the grassroots.
Caritas Colombia gets international support through the Colombia Working Group of Caritas Internationalis, which co-ordinates financial support and provides an international platform for the Colombian Church’s conflict resolution programme. In September each year, the group joins the Colombian Church and other groups in supporting a week of prayer, study and action for peace as part of The Caritas Internationalis “Peace is Possible” campaign.
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