CAFOD welcomes visit of Pope Francis to Colombia and his message of peace and reconciliation
11 September 2017
CAFOD has welcomed the visit of Pope Francis to Colombia and his message of peace and reconciliation.
“The Pope’s visit brings much needed hope to a country attempting to heal the wounds of almost six decades of internal armed conflict” said CAFOD’s Head of Region for Latin America, Clare Dixon.
“We reiterate Pope Francis’ call for forgiveness and reconciliation, and an end to the violence and fear that have blighted the lives of millions in Colombia.”
During his four-day visit to Colombia – the first papal visit in 30 years - Pope Francis visited the cities of Bogotá, Villavicencio, Cartagena and Medellin.
Healing the wounds of decades of conflict
He met with victims of the country’s armed conflict and spoke about efforts to build peace. He said:
“The search for peace is a continual task; a task that has no let-up and that demands the commitment of all.
“However difficult the road to peace and understanding, we must put more effort into recognising one another, healing wounds, building bridges, extending ties and mutual support.”
Pope Francis also used the visit to draw attention to the situation of women in the country, including violence towards women. He told a crowd in Villavicencio that many communities “are still weighed down with patriarchal and chauvinistic customs”.
Colombian conflict not yet over
Despite a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, conflict and violence continue in Colombia.
“There is not yet peace in Colombia” said Clare Dixon. “In some parts of the country the conclusion of peace talks with the FARC and demobilisation of guerrilla members has created a power vacuum.”
“Territory previously under influence of the FARC guerrillas is now being taken over by FARC dissidents, ELN and other guerrilla groups, paramilitary groups, drug traffickers and other criminal groups,” said Clare Dixon.
The danger of defending peace
CAFOD and our partners in Colombia continue to call on the Colombian authorities and the international community to denounce the increased violence against human rights defenders and community leaders who are attempting to build peace in the country.
“The Catholic Church in Colombia plays a key role as an advocate for peace and human rights, the resettlement of uprooted communities, and the need to ensure victims have access to truth, justice and reparation” said Clare Dixon.
51 human rights defenders were killed in the first six months of 2017, a 30 per cent increase from the same period in 2016.
Protecting our common home in a ‘post conflict’ Colombia
Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of protecting the Amazon during his visit, calling it "a decisive test". His message was reiterated by CAFOD and our Colombian partners:
"The Colombian Government has decided to base its economic model on mining, energy and the exploitation of natural resources” said Clare Dixon.
“Yet we are extremely concerned about the impact this could have on the poorest and most marginalised in the country, including the millions of victims displaced from their land.”
“In line with Pope Francis’ message in his encyclical Laudato Si’, we are calling for a more inclusive discussion about how we can protect our common home and ensure the economy serves the people and not vice versa” said Clare Dixon.
“Any development plan for a ‘post-conflict’ Colombia must take into account what local communities want.”