Colombia Accompaniment Report: The IPC: A Voice for Peace and Reconciliation

Cathy and Peter Surgenor

20 February 2018

In the midst of a culture of violence, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia is a voice for peace and reconciliation. Individual churches provide solace for those who have suffered loss. Every pastor we encountered has suffered personal loss; still they provide support to others.

The active church community in Morindo.

Each of the pastors is incredibly hard working. One host pastor spent two hours on a Saturday night with arms in the mud to solve a neighbor’s water problem. When we returned to our base an hour early one day, the question was, “Since you are back early, are you ready to head out tomorrow instead of the next day?” We declined; we needed rest. Two of our host pastors are members of the Colombian National Commission on Justice and Peace. Working with many partners, including Compassion International, Living Waters for the World, and arts and theater educators from Bogotá, the IPC is strengthening the resiliency of youth and adults. People’s love for each other is palpable and a great support as communities move forward.

The Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia has been active since the first Presbyterian missionary arrived in 1856. In the Peace Declaration of 2014, the church reaffirmed its desire to bring justice, peace and reconciliation:

“Our great intention is to be reconcilers in this society of deep enmity (Ephesians 2:14-16) between those who have held power for centuries and those who suffer the consequences of social exclusion. We know it is a long road not free from difficulties, but we have this glorious ministry, and in it we are not alone.”

“We know that there will be no true reconciliation if there are no processes: of forgiveness among enemies (Matthew 18:21-22), of carefully seeking the truth (Psalm 85:11), of restorative justice (Galatians 6:1), and of repairing the great wounds resulting from more than 50 years of armed conflict. We must learn about Jesus’ actions in the face of violence and injustice in order to choose non-violent solutions to the conflict. As followers of Jesus, we cannot choose another way besides the way of PEACE. ‘Sustainable’ peace that goes hand in hand with ‘restorative justice.’ Displaced persons and victims must be restored to their way of life, much as Calvin did 500 years ago with the thousands of displaced persons who arrived in Geneva through the diaconal work of the Church.”

“As Reformed Christians we must bear witness to Christ. We know that the conversion of the hearts of Colombians is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray that the Spirit blow in our country, bringing profound changes to the mentality of the violent and, by its grace, transforming this beautiful country into a place that gives rise to coexistence, inclusion, equity, and the full development of the creative potential of all for a dignified life.”

“Churches and civil society organizations can work with the government in the search for alternative solutions to the situation of violence, conflict, and political and social crisis in Colombia, whose harmful effects on the population are regularly disseminated by the different media of the country.”

“We hope that the dialogues between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) will continue despite the obstacles encountered in recent months and regardless of the presidential election results.”

“In this context we call on the parties involved in the armed conflict to reach agreements including a bilateral ceasefire for the benefit of the civilian population in general, which is the first victim of the conflict.”

“We ask international protection bodies, churches, agencies, participants in the ecumenical movement, and all those who love peace to support the efforts that are being made to achieve this purpose in Colombia and to engage in the subsequent implementation of agreements for cessation of the armed conflict as advisors, encouragers, and observers of the process.”

“We are asking the national government under leadership of the President to pay special attention to the current political situation and to refrain from the use of force in responding to complaints from different sectors of the citizenry: farmers, teachers, environmentalists, transportation workers, students.”

“We urge all people, political leaders, parties, representatives of civil society, and churches, to set aside a spirit of defensiveness and to participate in the construction of a true and lasting peace.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

The Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IPC) is the only Colombian denomination participating in the World Council of Churches.

For more background on the Peace Declaration of 2014, visit: http://www.ipcol.org/noticias/322-ipc-peace-declaration-2014.