The Peace Process in Colombia

The Peace Process in Colombia, the Utopia is Now Being Realised
A CAFOD Talk by Jeny Pantoja, Teacher & Post-Graduate Student

Friday, February 17th, 2017 - Jeny Pantoja, a parishioner, is a teacher from Colombia and a post-graduate student from Bath Spa University. She gave an informative presentation using slides and video clips on the peace process in Colombia, South America at a meeting convened by CAFOD volunteers at St John the Evangelist.

Starting with a quiz, Jeny gave a brief introduction to Colombia – geographical location, climate, history, people and origins. The government of Colombia has fought an on- going civil war on three fronts with finance by the cultivation of coca and export of cocaine:

  • With FARC - the militant communists and peasant self-defence groups, its largest and oldest revolutionary guerrilla group began some 52 years ago.
  • With the EN (National Liberation Army) - the more ideological Marxist leftwing National Liberation Army who say they are opposed to US influence in Colombia, multi-national corporations, the privatisation of resources, and rightist violence. They claim to protect the rights of the poor.
  • With AUC – an umbrella for right-wing paramilitary military groups defending the interests of large landowners, drug traffickers and the economic elites against FARC and EN.

Several attempts at bringing these guerilla movements to the table had been made since 1988, but it was only on December 17th 2016 in a peace deal brokered by Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador that an indefinite ceasefire with FARC was signed by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia with FARC militants. To do so, the citizens of Colombia in both the rural and urban areas had first to lay the foundation for peace. In schools this was done through education.

 
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Jeny showed a video-clip of a film that she used with her pupils leading to discussion on the need for peace and forgiveness. The children undertook assignments to imagine what peace would look like.

Although the peace deal has been signed, the hard work to peace making now begins, with the rehabilitation and re-training of guerilla militants for jobs in the mainstream economy, and with the acceptance and forgiveness of the people towards FARC guerillas. A justice commission has been set up.

To reap the dividends for peace, the government is seeking economic support from the international economic community. The government has also requested the Catholic Church to be a partner for peace. CAFOD with its sister agency, CARITAS Colombia is involved with the education for peace. No longer a guerilla movement, FARC has a legitimate political voice. May the peace that has begun continue to present opportunities for a better future for the people of Colombia and this beautiful country.

Written by Irene Prentice
CAFOD Contact Person – St John the Evangelist, Bath

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Calling Young Adults

CAFOD Gap Year volunteer vacancies are open for 18-30 year olds.

Last year, a student from Trowbridge went on a CAFOD Gap year. More information can be found on the CAFOD website at http://www.CAFOD.org.uk/Education/CAFOD-Gap-year.

Paris climate change agreement

We took your voices to the heart of government when we presented our 40,000 strong petition to Number 10 Downing Street. We now have a Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Thank you to everyone who signed the petition.


Do you know anyone aged 18-30 looking for a gap year with a difference? Applications are now open for CAFOD’s young leadership programme. The deadline is 11th March 2016. Find out more on our website www.cafod.org.uk/gapyear.

Laudato Sí Parliamentary debate

The motion was intended to set the scene for a parliamentary session in which backbenchers could give their views to the government on the forthcoming Paris Climate Change Conference which aims for a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

 

David Packham attended on behalf of CAFOD and has provided this summary report.

CAFOD: Making a difference in Myanmar

CAFOD: How your support makes a difference in Myanmar

At a CAFOD Clifton reception on 14 April, Fr. Pius Win Than, Assistant Director from CARITAS Myanmar, CAFOD's sister agency, extended his gratitude to all in our parish for supporting CAFOD and in "showing mercy and compassion" through the generous donations that CARITAS Myanmar has received from CAFOD.

Giving a first hand account, Fr. Pius, who survived Cyclone Nargis that wrecked his village in the Partein Diocese, described the large-scale devastation of the powerful cyclone on 3rd May 2008. 150,000 people were killed, and a further 2.4 million people were affected, with homes, farmlands and crops destroyed.

Thanks to CAFOD’s support and your donations CARITAS Partein is able to work with the poor and vulnerable communities of Partein Diocese by setting up disaster risk reduction and preparedness strategies, such as installing loudspeakers to warn of bad weather and cyclones, and the building of embankments to prevent sea water from damaging crop fields (wet rice farming requires clean water).

To mitigate the damage caused by disasters, CARITAS Partein is putting in place emergency preparedness plans. Illustrating with a slide presentation, Fr. Pius described the installation of high-level pumps to draw clean drinking water from wells to a high over-head tank, as well as the construction of high-level grain storage facilities. As an aside, Fr. Pius informed that the diocese has bought five acres of farmland for growing padi. During harvest, 10 bags of rice per acre are stored for emergency rations. Older stocks are sold.

Through information and support from local CARITAS staff, the poor have a better understanding of their basic human rights. They also learn about the importance and need to maintain good hygiene standards to protect their health, and the importance of planting trees to prevent soil erosion.

By Irene Prentice, CAFOD Parish Contact