Colombian president says churches can play key role in peace process

(Photo: LWF Colombia)Lutheran World Federation World Service team visiting remote rural communities affected by the conflict in Colombia in 2015.

Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos has said churches can play a fundamental role in building peace in Colombia which is seen as tenuous now.

He said this Feb. 28 February, during a keynote speech at a public forum promoted by the World Council of Churches in Cartagena, Colombia.

"Building peace requires changing prejudices, requires learning to forgive, requires changing attitudes towards many things in life, especially in a conflict that has lasted three generations," he said.

"We are making a great effort, with many difficulties. Peace has enemies and the help of the church at this time is essential," said Santos.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in a statement on March 1 expressed its concerns on the fragility of the Colombian peace process.

"The effective implementation of the humanitarian aspects of the Peace Agreement cannot be delayed any longer," said the ICRC.

"The challenges of implementing the Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People's Army (FARC‑EP), the uncertainty of negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN), insecurity in some of the remotest areas of the country, the tragedy of missing people and the serious prison crisis are particularly concerning for the humanitarian organization," said the ICRC.

The WCC's at the Centro de Convenciones Cartagena de las Indias, the forum was entitled "The Peace Process in Colombia, and the role of churches and faith communities."

It brought together a wide range of speakers from both the Colombian president's administration and the WCC's constituency. 

(Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC)Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos.

The event included a short act of signing by Santos of the public policy decree for religious freedom and worship in Colombia.

Welcoming Santos and the participants was Rev. Frank Chikane, a leading figure in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, in government service under former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

Chikane is moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

He expressed appreciation for Santos's engagement and leadership in the pursuit of peace in this country, recognized in the award of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.

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