08.12.10 16:18 Age: 1 yrs

WCC to strengthen ecumenical support for peace efforts in Colombia


A World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation on ecumenical accompaniment in Colombia was held in Geneva on 2-3 December. Participants affirmed the ecumenical commitment to strengthen the peace process in Colombia. The consultation decided to explore ways to initiate an international ecumenical accompaniment programme in Colombia as a contribution to the Colombian peace process.


The meeting was attended by representatives from churches, ecumenical organizations and ecumenical development agencies and human rights organizations from Colombia, Europe, North America, and global ecumenical organizations such as LWF, ACT Alliance and the WSCF.


Colombia was identified as a priority by the 50th meeting of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, held in Albania in October 2010. It is one focus of the WCC programme on accompanying churches in conflict situation.


In his opening address, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit stated that the “World Council of Churches, its member constituencies and other related networks in different parts of the world have a long history of accompaniment of the churches and people in Colombia in their struggle for an end to the armed conflict.”


WCC moderator Rev. Dr Walter Altman also greeted the participants at the opening session, saying that “the war and ensuing conflicts between the army and insurgent groups in Colombia have besieged the country for almost five decades”, and he showed appreciation for the role of WCC initiatives to coordinate ecumenical engagement in accompanying the Colombian churches.


Dr Lilia Solano of the Justicia y Vida movement told the consultation, “We in the civil society keep working for a negotiated end to the conflict and to the various forms of injustice and oppression. There is a need for renewed efforts to achieve a political settlement.”


Rev. Gloria Ulloa, from Red Ecumenica, said that a recent meeting of a US National Council of Churches delegation with the Colombia minister of defense confirmed that government policies really haven’t changed. “Anyone who even protects a human rights worker is considered a terrorist”, Ulloa said.


Colombian representatives agreed that an ecumenical international presence is important to offer protection to churches and NGOs working in the country and to support and encourage civil society efforts towards dialogue aimed at resolution of the conflict.


“The WCC has had a long-term commitment to accompaniment in Colombia as part of its prophetic witness. Peace, reconciliation and human rights in Colombia have been the focus of various WCC engagements for several years. The WCC is committed to continue to accompany the churches and people in Colombia”, said Dr Matthews George Chunakara, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.


“The WCC is committed to demonstrate its leadership in accompaniment of churches and people in conflict situations and to strengthen ecumenical links within the family to work together for peace in Colombia,” Dr Mathews George continued. “The WCC will work out modalities to organize an international consultation on Columbia in collaboration with the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) and other ecumenical partners during the first quarter of next year.”


The participants agreed to explore possibilities for initiating an international ecumenical forum on Columbia as well as an international accompaniment programme in Colombia. Although Colombia has the world's third largest internally displaced population, after the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan, it is a largely forgotten crisis now. In recent years, paramilitary forces and guerrillas systematically attacked civilian populations including indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians.


WCC member churches in Colombia


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