Original email to Cecilia by:

Carmiña Navia Velasco, Santiago de Cali, October 3rd 2016

(Translated by Gerry Millrine, CSN Volunteer Translator)

In any meeting in which I have taken part, I have always stated with regard to this topic that: in Colombia, we neither have nor have had a leader- of either sex- who sought peace. The deep scars, which 52 years of war and of atrocities committed by both sides, have caused in the souls of all Colombians, both women and men can only be healed by a deep spirituality of forgiveness. We were given no help whatsoever throughout this time to build peace. Peace, both is and has been, invoked in vain. “Peace is the way,” as was said by a great teacher in this area: Mahatma Gandi. This process has come about not to the ordinary people, but among political leaders who live in neither peace, forgiveness, nor reconciliation.

Throughout this process, both the Catholic church and the Protestant churches have to confront the fact that their spiritual leadership did not show us the path to meet with the other. Evangelical leaders, for the most part, insisted, with monotony and lack of awareness, and without analyzing the agreements, that any “ideology of gender “would bring about the undermining of the family.

Within the Catholic church, there were those who practice a false neutrality and others who followed a mistaken strategy or approach towards the Yes camp, judging harshly, those who harbored any doubts. I did not see, apart from marginal groups, a theology of forgiveness, which could have been taught in Sunday homilies.

However, given the results, a number of questions are raised. I propose the following which, in my opinion, may assist in explaining the results, which by any reasoning, can be seen as disconcerting:

Why was there such a high index of abstentions? In such as a plebiscite as this, then the whole country should have been pouring into the streets to take part and, nevertheless, there was an index of 62% abstentions. That is, as is usual, the results of the plebiscite was decided by a large minority. Only 1% or 2% of these abstentions could have been thoughtful abstentions. We might also take into account, a significant, but minority of those who abstained, did so because of factors such as isolation (fields, mountains, rivers…) and the total absence of the presence of the State, which neither allowed for, nor made demands for them to journey for a day and a half in order to vote.

I believe there to be another factor, which has to be taken into account, and which I believe to quite definitive and it is that: in Colombia, the great majority of the population live in the city, and for the most part, live in the suburbs or fringes of the city. Many of these people have been displaced by the war and have NOT forgiven: they have been given no help to be able to forgive. On the other hand, for such as these, a YES vote or a NO vote is not going to change their lives: their lives, their problems, their health issues, their lack of education and money remain the same from one day to the next. Their worries and pains are not diminished in the least by any voting. Here, there is no cosmopolitan sense of participation. How could this be otherwise, given that the state has little or no commitment to its own people? I always said that the “Yes” campaign, did not know how to reply to questions as to what impact that this might have on the lives of all ordinary men and women. I always received the reply, “We’ll get around to that,” at the moment, the important thing is achieving a “Yes” vote.

I continue to hold the belief, that there is a distinction to be made that neither politicians, nor President Santos share: one thing is peace and the other, agreements.

You cannot demand a vote for peace, because peace is created, agreements are voted on. We can understand the plebiscite as the first step towards this building up of peace, but what was missing, was any teaching towards this. I repeat what Gandi said: Peace is the path…and the recently ended campaign, was not quite a path towards peace and agreement…it was discredited completely. It attempted to welcome one enemy (FARC) but created another: those who voted Yes or and those who voted NO.

This brings us to another of the necessary topics: in Colombia, and I believe in many countries in the the West, campaigns are founded on lies, deceit, coercion…politics are no longer a question of “serving the common good,” but a debate about ideas, of confronting different thought. The No campaign, had recourse to every type of lie: it stated that part of pensions would go to finance the post-conflict; asserted that the agreements would lead to “Castrochavismo” and affirmed that the agreements would lead to the end of the family. The Yes campaign, declared that, the very next day, if agreements were not reached: the FARC would attack cities, that they would leave the negotiating table, that four years of discussions would come to nothing. It attempted to discredit any questioning whatsoever…an atmosphere was created of of deceit and fudging, which did nothing to disperse the doubts of those who had them.


First of all, we should not give up the dream: it must be possible to live together in a nation at peace, which is capable of settling its differences by means of dialogue and consensus.

This pre-supposes a second position: we have to be reconciled. One of the most serious outcomes of these results, is that our country is apparently split down the middle – I say “apparently,” because what we are not aware of what the 62%, who did not show what they think, actually believe.

We have a major challenge: to unlearn war, as the song says, offer our hand of friendship to others…in other words, to begin to build peace. We have to disarm our hearts.

Finally, we have to seek out new possibilities of sealing agreements, not only with FARC, but with all who have been active participants in the conflict.

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