It was announced on September 23 that the peace talks which have been ongoing for well over a year in Havana, Cuba between the Colombian government and some guerrilla groups seem to have reached the point where peace accords can be signed in March of 2016. There remain final pieces to be negotiated between now and March 2016 but it seems that the major hurdles in these talks have been cleared. While these accords to not solve many of the ongoing problems that would constitute a full and justice-filled peace, they are one step along the way and for that we are grateful. We celebrate peace even as it unfolds incrementally, knowing that each step gets us to our larger goals. This is a sign of great hope for the people of Colombia and marks a historic agreement.
A full analysis of the peace talks and their various implications has been put together by our partners at the Washington Office on Latin America and can be found at this link.
We encourage increased vigilance at this time. The needs of our partners around accompaniment continue to be great as this is a time of great hope but also great opportunity for actions to detail this work on peacebuilding.
Absent from the negotiations were the voices of women, children, the indigenous and people of color, something we continue to raise concerns about as they are groups victimized by the highest levels by war and violence. As our partners in Colombia have stated we are not in a time of peace, but of “post-accords,” the time of peacemaking will be long and arduous as that is the soul-work of healing people and communities affected by generations of violence, displacement and fear on all sides. Just the signing of a “peace deal” not not eliminate these worries and fears or the need for sustained and long-term work on reconciliation.
There is also an economic side to these peace deals. With more stability, especially in regional areas, land is open to greater investment, especially in extractive industries. As people of faith we decry the rape of land for personal or corporate gain and remain vigilant in watching these trends as they relate to the U.S./Colombia Free-Trade Agreement which increases the opportunities for these extractive industries to work in the pristine rural parts of Colombia, much of it indigenous land and rainforests. The conflict in Colombia and the displacement crisis that it fuels has always been about land and this agreement can be seen in light of that history. We state our opposition as those committed to nonviolence to such tactics.
Our sisters and brothers in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia have invited us into a time of prayer and solidarity. Let us pray with thanksgiving for the places where peace is becoming a possibility and let us renew our commitments to working for a full peace that includes full justice for all people and the Creation.
Finally it should be noted that the concern about extractive industries is of great concern to the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship for the harm to the Creation that it continues to pose and specifically to vulnerable communities in Colombia. Land grabs associated with the extractive industry are a leading case of displacement in Colombia. We commend the Fossil Fuel Divestment Overture which is being heard in Presbyteries across the PC(U.S.A.) as we ready for the General Assembly next summer in Portland. We encourage you to bring this overture to your Presbytery for concurrence as we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Colombia. As people of faith we must continue to invest in ways that build peace and do not increase the opportunities for violence and harm to people, communities or the precious gift of Creation, our only and in the words of Pope Francis, our “common” home. A number of companies on the coal and/or oil and gas listings in the Carbon Underground 200 list which is the recommended list of this overture for divestment by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) do business in Colombia or are Colombian extractive energy companies. Our support, solidarity and accompaniment of our sisters and brothers in Colombia means that we must urge our denomination to divest now from these fossil fuel companies as an act of faith. The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship took action at our National Committee meeting in September 2015 to divest our holdings using this list as our guide.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”