Prof. Dr Fernando Enns, from the Association of Mennonite Congregations in Germany, and a member of the WCC executive committee; and Dr h.c. Humberto Shikiya, WCC’s special envoy to the Colombia peace process, have been assigned by the WCC to play complementary roles in the peace process in Colombia.
They recently returned from Colombia, and shared an update on the peace process as well as the challenges that lie ahead.
Enns and Shikiya describe a vision of peace depends on intergenerational work, inter-religious communication, and trust between government groups and faith-based organizations.
“I am just returning from a meeting with youth church representatives from all over the country, which has been very inspiring,” said Enns. “I have learned about their dreams of a future in peace with justice.”
Enns and Shikiya both reported that those dreams—which include peace with the earth—are being nurtured by many local partners with high yet realistic expectations.
“They are highly motivated to support the ongoing, yet fragile peace process,” said Enns. “We have discussed the specific role of the churches.”
The peace process and the dreams alike are founded on careful analysis and credible partners, both men noted.
“I am impressed with the great analysis done by different research institutes, universities and seminaries we have visited,” said Enns.
Shikiya described the specific role and work of the WCC’s key partners on the ground in Colombia. “The main key partners with experiences and capabilities at local and regional/sub-national levels are the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, which is a full member of the WCC; and DiPaz (Interecclesiasial Dialogue for Peace) which is the ecumenical associate of the WCC in Colombia,” he explained. “In addition, DiPaz has in its membership a number of churches and ecumenical and academic organizations that gives it some reach at the national level.”
Among other responsibilities, the WCC will act as a custodian and witness of the agreements reached, and make a permanent presence in the confidence-building mechanism and the Peace Dialogue Table.
“In the peace process. DiPaz is one of the four organizations that represent the religious sector,” Shikiya explained. “In this sense, DiPaz enjoys public recognition from various national sectors and in the international community itself.”
Many challenges ahead
There are many challenges even considering the inspiring work accomplished so far, acknowledged both Enns and Shikiya. “When the young generation does not see a future for themselves, it is very easy to turn to some of the armed groups,” said Enns. “It will be important to learn from their expertise as much as it will be important to listen carefully to the communities in remote territories, who continue to live under very threatening conditions.”
The WCC’s listening ear is crucial, he added, and an ecumenical approach is needed. “Yet, sometimes it will be necessary to avoid the typical ecumenical jargon,” he cautioned.
Shikiya described how the WCC is a crucial part of the “Total Peace” agenda of the Colombian government.
“Where the lives of people and creation are at stake, it is urgent to intervene humanitarianly within the framework of bilateral ceasefires and jointly contribute to the social oversight mechanism in which we are invited to participate,” he said. “To achieve this, training of territorial leadership is required, developing institutional capacities, promoting the necessary protection and security, and sharing transparent communication.”
A Colombian pilgrimage
All this work relates very closely with the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity, Enns and Shikiya agreed.
“The metaphor of pilgrimage gives language to a common understanding, that—next to the processes on the political level—a spiritual journey is needed, if we want to see peace with justice in Colombia,” said Enns. “It is a context in which religion plays a major role, since all actors involved are in one way or another religiously affiliated.”
Enns introduced the WCC’s programmatic approach of the Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity to many people in Colombia.
“Actually, I was surprised, how much this seems to speak to the different groups and churches we have met,” he said.
On 16 October, Shikiya attended an installation ceremony for the roundtable between the Colombian government and EMC FARC-EP, signed by the guarantor countries and permanent observers.
Part of the WCC’s role—officially kicked off with the ceremony—will be to contribute in moments of crisis or controversy at the request of both parties.
“To achieve this, it is key that new relationships of justice can be established between people and between people and the environment, and structural changes are established so that life and peace are sustainable,” said Shikiya. “This same vision must be achieved in the work of the WCC at the international level, because the construction of peace in Colombia also depends on what may happen at a global level.”