Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lutheran Colombian Perspectives on the Peace Agreements: Part One

The recent announcement of the final agreements between the government of Colombia and the FARC (Revolutionary Forces of Colombia) is exciting news. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia (IELCO) and all affiliated organizations and ministries have been working for decades to build peace and look forward to the next stage in this long and arduous journey. What are the perspectives of Lutheran Colombians on the peace agreements and hopes for the future of their country?

The plebiscite, where the Colombian people will have the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” the agreement, will be held on October 2nd. Between now and then we will be highlighting the voices of our Colombian Lutheran brothers and sisters and their perspectives on the agreement. 

This week, Sara Lara, Coordinator of the Human Rights Program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia:

Sara Lara, the coordinator for IELCO's Human Rights program. Photo credit - submitted by Sara Lara.

The hopes of Colombians have grown with the “final agreement for the end of the conflict and the construction of a stable and durable peace”to live without the war that has scourged the country for more than 50 years. The surrender of weapons by the FARC also strengthens the possibility of realizing the right to peace, enshrined in Article 22 of Colombia’s Constitution of 1991. 

Multiple organizations have arisen during this long war, many of them to defend the human rights of the conflict’s victims. These organizations have played an important role as protagonists of the social mobilization pushing for the peace agreements, as seen through the development of peace education, the diffusion of the agreements from Havana, and even the campaign for massive participation in the plebiscite which seeks to endorse the agreements on the 2nd of October.

Civil society organizations have taken on the tasks entrusted by the government of President Santos, demonstrating the need to build peace from the grassroots and for forgiveness and reconciliation to become a reality. In this vein, the work carried out by churches is essential for the promotion of justice and the proclamation of the Gospel. Also noteworthy is the undisputed support of the international community for this process; since the beginning phase of secret negotiations to the implementation of the final agreements.

The challenges ahead are concerned with the experience of peace in everyday life; it is well known that the FARC exiting the armed conflict does not necessarily mean the end of violence in the streets, homes, schools and other living spaces. Nor can we ignore the persistence of other guerrilla groups like the ELN and the EPL and the criminal and paramilitary gangs that keep the Colombian armed conflict alive. 

It is also our call to make visible the more than 8,131,269 victims of the conflict whom are at the center of the agreement. They will need greater attention from the government to ensure the effective enjoyment of their rights. 

We will move forward, step by step, with trust in God to heal this land and with great expectations of peace. At the same time though, we are cautious of the current economic model, as well as the difficulties concerning the integration of demobilized guerrillas into political and civil life and the constant struggle for the respect of the rights of all people in Colombia.