Over 300 women from the northeast and middle Magdalena regions gathered over two days, on November 10 and 11 to develop a proposal on their role and demands in a post-agreement Colombia. Women have been the primary victims of these last five decades of war but have also been protagonists in successfully lobbying for a negotiated end to the 52 year conflict between the FARC-EP and the Colombian state.
Last September, two graying fighters in the hemisphere’s longest-running armed conflict consented to an awkward handshake. Ernesto Londoño wrote in the New York Times that he watched Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleón Jiménez, alias “Timochenko,” head negotiator for the FARC, shake hands “in stunned silence,” astonished at the diplomatic successes of Colombia’s four years of peace talks. On the evening of October 2nd, international observers reacted once again in stunned silence—this time, however, because the prospects for peace were thwarted by an entirely unexpected outcome. The “Yes” vote lost by less than 1% in a surprise to most observers, who predicted that the referendum would pass.
Five days have passed since the October 2nd referendum when 6,431,376 Colombians voted to reject the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP). The slim win of the “No” vote, by a margin of 54,000 votes, leaves the country in a highly polarized state.
On September 26 with the whole world watching, President Juan Manuel Santos quoted the national anthem, “The horrible night has ceased,” after signing the 297 page peace agreement with the FARC.
The peace agreement signed on August 24 in Colombia, which ends a 52-year-long conflict between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, marks an end of a violent era in Colombia’s history. Many Colombians are celebrating, and the nation’s president has declared, in a New York Times editorial, that there is now no war in the Western Hemisphere.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27
Today is the day. The war with FARC-EP has ended. Peace is possible.
On Thursday, August 25th, The Colombia Government and FARC-EP announced that they have reached a peace agreement. After over fifty years of armed conflict, they lay down their weapons in an indefinite cease-fire. Generations of Colombians that have only known war will now be given the opportunity to live in peace.
The advances of the negotiations between the government and the FARC-EP in Havana become more concrete and hopeful every day. The announcements made by the chief negotiators from the government’s and guerrillas’ negotiating teams regarding the declaration of a bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities in the country is a signal that we are advancing down definite paths toward the ending of the armed conflict between these two parties. What’s more, the FARC-EP, which up until now has been reluctant to accept the concentration of its combatants in specific zones of the country, have taken a definitive step toward approving the sites suggested by the Santos administration for that purpose.
How one views the prospects for peace in Colombia depends on how one understands the conflict and how one defines peace. There are many different stakeholders, each with competing and often conflicting interests.
The ongoing peace negotiations with the Colombian Government and left-wing FARC guerrilla insurgents in Havana, along with a more recent government commitment to enter into a separate talks with the ELN insurgents in Ecuador, are being celebrated both nationally and internationally as the imminent end to the fifty-year conflict in Colombia.
15 This is what the Lord says:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
16 This is what the Lord says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”
declares the Lord.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.
17 So there is hope for your descendants,”
declares the Lord.
“Your children will return to their own land.
Jeremiah 31:15-17The International Ecumenical Encounter for Peace in Colombia held April 8th, 2015 drew 70 plus women and men from around the world to discuss ways the church can build peace in the face of the ongoing war in Colombia.
On April 9th thousands of Colombians participated in marches for peace in major cities across Colombia1. Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), along with our local partners, participated in the one in Bogotá and the one in Medellin. In addition to these two marches many of our local partners from Barrancabermeja and Guayabo also participated in the march in Bucaramanga, Santander.
The date of the march, April 9th, is significant because it commemorates the day in which Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a populist leader and Liberal Party candidate was assassinated (April 9th, 1948). Gaitán had previously been the mayor of Bogota and at the time of his assassination seemed poised to win the presidential elections, based on his platform of non-violent solutions to the conflict in Colombia.
It is often declared that “Peace Won” in Colombia on Sunday, June 15. However, I have yet to hear someone without power and money say the same. Here on the CPT-Colombia team, we are all just breathing a collective sigh of relief that presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga walked away from Sunday’s 2nd round election the loser.
Current President Juan Manuel Santos won the election with just 51% of the vote, but enough to keep alive the negotiations to end Colombia’s 60-year conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC (Colombia’s largest guerrilla army). Santos bet his entire election on maintaining the negotiation process that was begun in Havana in 2012, upping the ante 5 days before the election with the announcement that he would begin parallel talks with the ELN (Colombia’s second largest guerrilla army).