Hopes and Prayers for Colombia: KAIROS sends messages to the Ecumenical Forum for Peace in Colombia
On May 18-19 hundreds of church leaders, clergy, ecumenical organizations and representatives of social movements gathered for the Ecumenical Forum for Peace in Bogota, Colombia under the banner “from an ethics for peace to a peace with ethics”. The forum, convened by an impressive number of church leaders and representatives from the Mennonite, Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic churches, aimed to increase the participation and amplify the prophetic voice of the Colombian churches in the country`s peace process.
Last August, the Colombian government and the FARC, the largest guerilla group in Colombia, announced a peace process. This news was met with optimism and hope by Colombians who have suffered over 5 decades of war. The human toll of the conflict has been devastating. Figures vary, but according to partners 600,000 people have been killed, 15,000 disappeared and over 5 million people internally displaced. Colombians crave peace, and although excluded from the official process, Colombian civil society organizations, including women, Indigenous peoples, human rights organizations and churches, are coming together and proposing platforms and proposals for peace. The Ecumenical Forum for Peace took place in this context.
Unable to send church leaders in person to participate in this important ecumenical forum, KAIROS sent the following video with messages of hope and prayers for peace from Board members, church leaders and partners. The video was filmed by Allan Lissner on May 8 at Circle Fest, KAIROS’ annual national gathering.
Chris and Susan Ferguson are currently living and working in Colombia for the United Church of Canada (UCC) and were able to participate in the forum on behalf of KAIROS and the UCC.
According to the Fergusons, KAIROS’ video message was greatly appreciated by church partners in Colombia. After the forum, Chris wrote this reflection:
… Thanks to KAIROS and UCC for asking us to represent you at the Foro Ecumenico por la PAZ. Susan is finishing the English translation of the final Declaration…I must say that the KAIROS video greetings was a high point for many of the young people and grassroots participants. They simply hadn’t realised that people in other parts of the world were aware of or cared about the situation in Colombia. That plus the fact that it was a collective AND ecumenical effort and included indigenous voices really inspired and lifted the spirits of many!!!!
Thank you to those who participated in the video message. We hope that by posting it we will help to echo the messages for peace in Colombia.
The murder of Benedicta Joya Aponte
The Ecumenical Forum for Peace was marred by news of the horrendous murder of Benedicta Joya Aponte, a campesina woman and sister of a local priest, who was brutally murdered in their home just days before the forum. KAIROS has posted a translation of the urgent action that we received from partners about this atrocious crime.
After the first day of the forum, Chris Ferguson wrote this about Benedicta’s death:
Here at the forum her life was offered as an inspiration for the meeting and a moment of silence observed. Her brother’s absence among us was lifted up.
Even as innocent people like Benedicta are being killed, the resolve for peace with justice in Colombia is strengthened.
PM Stephen Harper’s visit to Colombia
The Ecumenical Forum for Peace took place just days before Prime Minister Harper’s visit to South America, and Colombia, to participate in a summit on trade. Canada currently has a free trade agreement with Colombia, and is seeking to deepen this relationship by joining the Pacific Alliance with Chile, Peru, Mexico and Colombia. KAIROS’ concerns are similar to those surrounding the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). With an agenda that is focused on free trade and the protection of corporate investments and interests, there is little room for democratic development, corporate accountability, human rights and peace.
On May 15, 2013 Canada was due to produce its second human rights report on the impact of the CCFTA, but the tabling of this report was postponed because the Canadian Parliament was not in session. With the mechanisms to measure the impact of trade and investment on human rights in Colombia still relatively weak and untested, promoting a peace process that respects human rights and protects innocent civilians such as Benedicta Joya Aponte should take priority over pursuing deeper trade relationships.
For more information, please contact Rachel Warden, Program Coordinator for Latin American Partnerships and Gender Justice Programming, email@example.com