56 faith leaders in the United States and Colombia have joined to send letters to U.S. President Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, and Colombian President Santos calling for U.S. policy that prioritizes peace and human rights in Colombia. These two letters urge the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla group to stay the course and continue negotiations until a peace-accord is signed.
These letters are part of the 2013 Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia, in which people of faith and conscience across the United States and Colombia dedicate a portion of their weekend and worship service to pray for and take action for peace and justice in Colombia.
The letter to Obama and Kerry expresses support for the ongoing peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC. It urges the Colombian government to continue to seek out ways to include victims and civil society, to establish an independent truth commission, and to commit to strong measures of justice for perpetrators of atrocities or other gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Furthermore, the letter asks that U.S. policy support the peace process and the implementation of peace accords by reorienting assistance to support peace, rather than war. The United States should provide support for the safe and sustainable return of land for internally displaced persons and refugees, integration support for displaced communities that do not wish to return to their places of origin, and alternative economic development programs that respect human rights and the environment and are developed in consultation with local communities. The letter argues that a return to violence could be prevented by a strengthened justice system, an independent truth commission, an independent mechanism to verify peace accord compliance, and better protection for human rights defenders and communities at risk.
A similar letter signed by members of religious communities across Colombia was sent to President Santos and the FARC-EP negotiators, asking them to not abandon the negotiating table in Havana until they have signed a peace accord, and reiterating the faith community’s desire to and willingness to work for reconciliation in a post-conflict Colombia. Copies of both the U.S. and Colombian letter were delivered to members of the Colombian Congress’ Peace Commissions at a peace vigil in Bogotá on April 29.
Signatories of the faith leaders’ letter, for their part, urge President Obama and Secretary Kerry to recognize the crucial role of the faith community in assisting victims and helping to reweave the social fabric of local communities, as well as the opportunity for the United States to help foster and build a just and sustainable peace in Colombia.
To read the complete letter with signatories, please click here.