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Minute on violence on Colombia

This minute on violence in Colombia has been adopted by the executive committee, meeting in Geneva, 23-26 February 2010.

26 February 2010

ADOPTED
Doc. PI 1 Annex 1

World Council of Churches
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Bossey, Switzerland
23-26 February 2010

Colombia is currently facing one of the world’s most serious humanitarian crises. As a result of the civil conflict lasting over five decades, thousands of people have lost their lives; millions are being forcibly displaced, mostly indigenous people, Afro-Colombians and farmers, as they are forced to leave their communities due to the wide spread of violence. Human rights defenders, trade-unionists, church and community leaders who dare to raise their voices denouncing the violence committed by the armed groups often become victims of enforced disappearances and killings.

Unfortunately, the situation remains unchanged. Killings, enforced disappearances, flagrant violations of human rights and impunity continue to prevail in the county. The Universal Periodic Review of Colombia by the UN Human Rights Council, held in December 2008, noted the deteriorating situation. Each individual state has a primary responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. The Colombian government should take action against threats of massive human rights violations and other large-scale acts of violence against civilians. It should show full respect for international humanitarian law and human rights while promoting dialogue and negotiations for the achievement of lasting peace.

The World Council of Churches has a long history of accompaniment of the Colombian people in their struggle for an end to the armed conflict and to widespread conditions of impunity. Over the last decades, several consultations were organized; public statements condemning the violence were issued, and solidarity visits have taken place. Colombia was one of the focus themes of the United Nations Advocacy Week (UNAW) organized by the WCC in November 2009. During the UNAW, Colombian church leaders and ecumenical partners delved deeply into the tragedies and injustices of the ongoing bloody conflict in Colombia and reflected on ways to move forward to end the violence. A call was made by the participants to explore possible actions to accompany the churches and the people of Colombia in their struggle.

The World Council of Churches is of the opinion that the violent conflict in Colombia can be overcome only through dialogue and political negotiations. A statement on violence in Colombia, adopted by the WCC central committee (Geneva, 26 August-3 September 2002) affirmed that, “for the Colombian Churches and other civil society organizations, the root of the conflict does not lie in the drug-trafficking or in the violence of the armed guerrilla movements (though these too are to be held to account), but in the long history of social injustice, the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the few, competition for control of potentially rich oil fields and a social structure built on the pillars of exclusion, inequalities and impunity.

The executive committee, meeting in Geneva 23-26 February 2010, therefore:

Reiterates its expressions of solidarity and prayers for the Colombian people, especially the families of those who were killed, disappeared or displaced;

Appreciates the courageous work for peace and witness of the Colombian churches;

Urges religious leaders in Colombia to continue their efforts in promoting a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the disarming of the paramilitary and the restoration of the rule of law;

Reminds member churches and related agencies to address the urgent situation in Colombia;

Expresses deep appreciation to all who have already made Colombian peace initiatives a priority;

Requests prayers and actions of concrete solidarity and exploration of possibilities for accompaniment programmes to support the churches and people in their peace work;

Encourages churches to advocate for the full respect of the human rights of Colombian citizens and to support actions aimed at putting an end to impunity, such as the preliminary investigation in Colombia that was launched by the International Criminal Court ;

Requests the churches in the United States of America to press their government for an immediate cessation of “Plan Colombia”, and for foreign assistance to Colombia to be redirected from military to humanitarian purposes and for a renewed emphasis on strengthening respect for human rights in the country;

Requests WCC staff to continue and strengthen its advocacy efforts to support peace and reconciliation in cooperation with the Colombian churches, Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) and other ecumenical partners.