A Communication from the Bishops of the Pacific Coast of Colombia
July 16, 2015
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The bishops of the Colombian Pacific, belonging to the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Istmina-Tadó, Quibdó, Guapi, Tumaco, Buenaventura, Apartadó, and Cali, declare to national and international public opinion our concern about the current situation in this region, and we propose some commitments that ought to be put forward so that we can achieve the stable and lasting peace that the residents of this territory hope for.
The Pacific regions continues to experience profound social conflict. Basic needs unsatisfied, the high incidence of poverty, and the human rights crisis have been traditional in both urban and rural areas of the Colombian Pacific. The lack of access to health care, education, decent housing, basic sanitation services, employment and development incentives for the campesinos and the working class has shaped a marginalized and poverty-stricken civilian society that is crying for justice and begs to see itself freed from such scourges as displacement, confinement, persecution within their own territories, drug trafficking, illegal mining, and extortion.
This panorama of suffering is made worse by the constant presence of the armed groups that have made the Pacific into a war zone in which the inhabitants are victims of the combat and the constant threats to their autonomy.
As a result, we declare that the desire for peace in every sector must be firm, authentic and persevering, and we propose the following commitments:
The National Government
The Colombian community must recognize the efforts of the national government to reach a negotiated solution o the armed conflict that the country is experiencing. In these difficult times that the country is passing through because of the increase in disturbances of the public order, the dialog must continue and we must not give in to the pressures that call for military action as the only solution to the armed conflict. It is absolutely urgent to get beyond the armed conflict by resolving the social conflict. Because of that, social investment must be aggressive and effective, so as to close the social barriers that separate the Pacific Coast from other regions of the country. Military actions to defend the interests of the citizens, well and good, they are legitimate, but they must be carried out in such a way that they do not do physical, psychological or social harm to the civilian population. In the same sense we have to remember that all of the members of the armed forces must work in compliance with International Humanitarian Law and carry out actions that are effective and that avoid illegal and corrupt behavior, and that guarantee punishment of those members who damage the image of the institution.
Colombian civil society must make a definite choice for peace. No argument can justify war as a normal path for a people. As Pope Francis has said: “War is the mother of all poverty.” It is up to Colombian civil society to promote change in the current economic model in this country. It is an extractivist model that removes their riches from the territories and favors the concentration of capital in certain regions of the country, in multinational companies and national economic groups. To focus on a solution to the armed conflict, Colombian society must be in solidarity with our poorest people.
The country received with hope the decision of the FARC to enter into a process of dialog with the national government. In the midst of some opposition, public opinion has supported the dialog process. We observe that the greatest support came when the FARC announced a unilateral cease fire and proposed effective cooperation in removing the land mines in Colombia. Still, their latest violent actions against the civilian population and that have done serious damage to the environment are a setback in their volition for peace. As pastors of the Church, we invite the FARC to stop their incremental strategy toward violent actions and to be coherent in their “relaunching of the dialogs in Havana”. No more attacks on transportation, energy, or water supplies. No more destruction of nature. All those things are an attack on peace.
The inhabitants of the Colombian Pacific cry out to the ELN to start immediately with the process of negotiation with the national government to make real the desire for peace that they have expressed at certain times. It is important for them to consider the possibility of presenting their proposals through the exercise of politics and not through armed actions. The Church of the Pacific invites them publicly to take this courageous and necessary decision to make serious progress toward the end of armed conflict in our country.
The Church of the Colombian Pacific
The individual churches of the Colombian Pacific region commit ourselves to continue preaching the God of Life. He “has come that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10, 10). We will keep on accompanying our communities, working to defend the victims, working to promote and defend the human rights of the inhabitants of this region of the country and in close collaboration with the social and ethnic organizations. Once more we choose peace, because we are disciples and missionaries of Him who has told us: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.” (Matthew 5, 9) In the midst of the marvelous biodiversity of this rich and beautiful territory, we will continue to cultivate respect for the environment, for this “our common home, that we ought to protect with responsibility and love” (Pope Francis).
DARIO DE JESUS MONSALVE MEJIA HUGO ALBERTO TORRES MARIN
Archbishop of Cali Apostolic Administrator in Apartadó
JULIO HERNANDO GARCIA PELAEZ GUSTAVO GIRON HIGUITA
Bishop of Istmina – Tadó Bishop of Tumaco
ALBERTO CORREA MARTINEZ JUAN CARLOS BARRETO BARRETO
Apostolic Vicar of Guapi Bishop of Quibdó
HECTOR EPALZA QUINTERO
Bishop of Buenaventura