AMERICA/COLOMBIA - The search for peace is based on respect for life, human dignity and dialogue, not on violence

Wednesday, 24 May 2023 violence   armed groups   indigenous   minors   bishops  


Bogota (Agenzia Fides) - "The scandalous and cruel practice of recruitingand using minors for war, so frequent by various armed groups, indicates a high level of degradation of the armed conflict in the country. The Colombian State must guarantee protection of children and adolescents, paying the historical debt it owes them": the Bishops of Colombia reaffirmed this in a statement entitled "Defend life to achieve peace", released on May 23, after the recent violent incidents that occurred in various regions of the country, and in particular the murder of four indigenous minors forcibly recruited by an armed group, which occurred in the department of Putumayo.
According to information
gathered by Fides, the Human Rights Coordination of the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (Opiac) has denounced the murder of four minors who had been kidnapped by an illegal armed group. Indigenous communities claim to have suffered systematic violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including the rights of children and adolescents. On March 26, 2023, members of the Carolina Ramírez Front forcibly kidnapped a young minor from the Guaquira Community of the Murui indigenous people. On May 15, the minor decided to flee from this armed group along with three other young people who were in the same situation, also members of the Murui people. After their escape, on the afternoon of May 17, members of the armed group found the fugitives in the community of El Estrecho, between Caquetá and Amazonas, and executed them by shooting.
Given the current situation in the country in relation to the armed conflict, the Bishops express their firm rejection of "these unacceptable facts" and call for reflection and action by all to finally achieve the desired peace. First of all, they ask, once again, that the life of every human being be respected. "Death cannot be an instrument that is used to achieve petty particular interests."
For this reason, they express their solidarity with the families and communities of the murdered minors, invoking from the Lord the necessary strength to face these moments of pain. The Bishops invite the Colombian people "to persevere in prayer for peace and not to give up the commitment to social transformation through nonviolence." Since war begets more war, "the search for peace, based on respect for life, human dignity and dialogue, is the way to overcome the multiple forms of violence in the country."
The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, has described the murder of the four young people as an "atrocious crime". The Colombian government has decided to suspend the bilateral ceasefire agreed with the dissident group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after the recent acts of violence perpetrated by this armed group. Therefore, the ceasefire in force in the departments of Meta, Caquetá, Guaviare and Putumayo is suspended. For their part, the former FARC have negatively assessed the decision, accusing the army of violations of the ceasefire. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 24/5/2023)