Bishop Declan Lang has encouraged people affected by the conflict in Colombia to take the opportunity of sharing their experiences with the Truth Commission, which was formed as part of the peace process and is now in the later stages of its mandate.
It has been over 50 years since violence between the Colombian Government and the formerly largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), began. In 2016, a peace agreement was signed between the government and FARC.
All parties to the conflict have been involved in serious human rights violations: more than 280,000 Colombians have been killed and almost eight million people have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety.
The Truth Commission is an important part of the peace process, giving people a chance to share how the conflict affected their lives.
Bishop Declan, who chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs said:
“Healing the often traumatic experiences of decades of ongoing armed conflict, as is the case in Colombia, is a long term process. On the road to justice and peace, truth and reconciliation are key elements.
Knowing the truth of what has happened to loved ones and sharing one’s own experiences can be painful but it also can be an important step towards peace, reconciliation and non-repetition. The Colombian peace process recognises the importance of the survivors in its chapter on victims of the armed conflict: it is time to hear their voices.
As Pope Francis reminded us on his visit to Colombia, we must ‘incorporate into our peace processes the experience of those sectors that have often been overlooked, so that communities themselves can influence the development of collective memory.’
The work of the Truth Commission is therefore extremely important. As the Commission approaches the later stages of its mandate, I hope that members of the Colombian community here in the UK who still have experiences to share may take this important opportunity.”
CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development continues to work with the Church in Colombia to provide support to victims and survivors of the civil conflict and the efforts to bring truth, justice, reconciliation and reparation for victims.