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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