AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Dialogue and hope for peace: talks with the ELN resume in Caracas, the IX Reconciliation Congress in Bogota

Monday, 21 November 2022 peace   armed groups   reconciliation   episcopal conferences  


Bogota (Agenzia Fides) - The IX National Reconciliation Congress, from November 22 to 24, takes place at a key moment for peace in Colombia, since peace talks between the government and the ELN guerrilla is expected. This was highlighted by Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao, delegate for Church-State relations of the Colombian Episcopal Conference (CEC), during the presentation of the Reconciliation Congress on the theme "Opening paths of dialogue and hope", organized by the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, through the National Secretariat of Social Pastoral (SNPS) and the National Reconciliation Commission (CCN).
According to information
gathered by Fides, representatives of the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) today, Monday, November 21, in Caracas, the peace negotiation talks, interrupted in 2018, when they were held in Cuba, by decision of the then president of Colombia, Ivan Duque. Venezuela is one of the three countries, along with Cuba and Norway, guarantors of the agreements, and plays a particularly important role due to its proximity to Colombia and the strong presence of the ELN in the border areas.
The second round of the presidential elections, held in Colombia on June 19, 2022, marked the victory of the leader of the left, Gustavo Petro, and Francia Márquez, candidate for the Vice Presidency. On several occasions, the Bishops
had urged all Colombians to participate in the elections, to strengthen the democratic system and help build a better country (see Fides, 18/6/2022). The day after Petro's election, the Archbishop of Bogota, Monsignor Luis José Rueda Aparicio, President of the Episcopal Conference, expressing his congratulations, reiterated the Church's commitment to "continue working and fighting for peace, reconciliation and brotherhood among all Colombians" (see Fides, 21/6/2022).
"This IX Congress is taking place at a very key moment - Bishop Héctor Fabio Henao said in the presentation of the Congress -, in which it is about strengthening hope, creating an environment that helps us in the midst of all the expectations that there is in the country, facing the enormous challenge of creating a new form of coexistence, a new form of encounter, of relationship in the Colombian population". He added that the Congress shows an important horizon that reconciliation and peace are possible and has invited not to give up in the long and complex task of reconciliation: "the horizon that is being undertaken today in the country is one of long term, it is a long-range task, we have already taken important steps, but there are present challenges that require us to continue working tirelessly for the reconciliation of our country". The Congress then, constitutes a very important occasion for meeting and listening, "because listening is key in the process we are experiencing, in the reconciliation process" and it will also be "a space for dialogue in the midst of respect."
The IX Congress of National Reconciliation foresees a wide participation and presentation of the experiences of the Church and of the communities of the territories, on social dialogue, reconciliation and peace. In this context, the work methodology includes doctrinal insights, presentation of significant experiences, ample space for questions, interactive spaces for participation, presentation of regional initiatives... With the material collected during the Congress, a document will be prepared for the formulation of strategies that strengthen the work of the Catholic Church in the construction of peace, and its contributions to reconciliation and social dialogue in Colombian society.
Monsignor Juan Carlos Barreto, bishop of Soacha and president of the Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral Care, stressed in his presentation to the Congress that all ecclesiastical jurisdictions, organizations and leaders who work for peace are involved. He also said that this meeting should lead to the fraternity of the Colombian people, to the reconciliation of all, in a country so affected by various acts of violence. "In the construction of peace in the country we are all involved with different responsibilities, the State, civil society and also the people and groups that have decided to hit the country by force of arms". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 21/11/2022)