Colombia has been ravaged by over fifty years of armed conflict involving the security forces, leftist guerrillas and right wing paramilitary groups.
All parties to the conflict have been involved in serious human rights violations: more than 200,000 Colombians have been killed and over six million people have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety. For decades Colombia has had one of the highest numbers of displaced people in the world, today second only to Syria.
Marginalised communities, often living in rural areas, including Afro-Colombian, Indigenous and peasant farmer communities, have been most affected by the armed conflict. Poverty and inequality are among the root causes of the conflict and they continue to be unaddressed as many people are pushed into long term poverty, living in unsafe dwellings in shanty towns on the outskirts of cities.
Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have been ongoing since October 2012 and are due to culminate in a peace agreement soon. In March 2016 the second largest rebel guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), stated they would also shortly be starting official peace negotiations with the Colombian Government.
CAFOD in Colombia
The Catholic Church plays a key role in Colombia as an advocate for peace and human rights and in the resettlement of uprooted communities. CAFOD’s programme focuses on peace-building, protection of human rights defenders and communities, sustainable livelihoods, work on business and human rights, and gender based violence.
Watch this film about spreading the message of peace via music in Colombia.
Our work is concerned with inspiring young people who can't find a way out or who don't think they can build a life for themselves beyond their neighbourhood. There are many theories for peace: redistribute land and improve education and health, but none of these speak of emotion - the fear, the guilt, the anger. Music is a fundamental tool to reach the emotions. We need to learn to deactivate the inner weapon inside us.