Monday, September 26 was a landmark day for Colombians as they witnessed the signing of a peace accord between the government and the FARC guerrillas. The ongoing conflict has spanned more than five decades.
The MCC Washington Office helped coordinate a time of prayer and music on Monday to celebrate the important moment, but also to hear testimonies of victims and remember the pain and suffering of millions across Colombia. Charissa Zehr shared remarks on MCC’s commitment to peace in Colombia, an 11 year tradition of the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia (DOPA) and a statement in support of the “yes” vote from the Colombian Mennonite Church.
Over the last 16 years, the US government has given significant financial support to the Colombian government, making it a central piece of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. There are a number of Senators and Representatives that have been faithful to the cause of peace with justice for all Colombians and often pushed back against funding that was mostly military aid. We share some of comments of several who attended the signing ceremony in Cartagena, Colombia:
STATEMENT BY U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES MCGOVERN (MA):
Over the past sixteen years, when I have been most deeply engaged on Colombia, I have been privileged to meet with thousands of Colombians from many of its regions, rural and urban, rich and poor, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous, campesinos and business leaders, elected officials and labor activists, young people and senior statesmen, victims’ advocates, human rights defenders, religious and community leaders. They have shared with me their stories and their insights, their sorrows and their dreams. It has been a journey that has affected me deeply. I have been humbled by their trust and their faith in the future.
It’s for their right to a future where Colombians may live and work in peace why I remain so committed to helping build a new Colombia – a Colombia at peace, that is not afraid of revealing the truth about its tragic past, that is dedicated to reconciliation and the rejection of violence, and committed to economic and social development that leaves no child, no region, no neighborhood behind. It will not be easy, but it is one of those glorious tasks worth every ounce of effort.
May peace be with you and with all of Colombia –
STATEMENT BY SENATOR BEN CARDIN (MD), Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Relations:
“Today’s signing is a historic turning point toward a new day and a brighter future for Colombia. The accord has the unanimous support of FARC’s leadership as well as the apparent majority of the Colombian people, which leave me optimistic as the nation prepares for a referendum shortly to affirm the path of peace.
“That’s a path they deserve to travel after a half century of violence and destruction that left hundreds of thousands dead and an astounding seven million people internally displaced. The conflict took a particularly devastating toll on young men and women on both sides, impacting generations.
“Beyond today’s signing, the work of peace is a never-ending endeavor and there must be serious commitments to justice, accountability, and reconciliation by all parties if Colombians are to achieve the future they deserve.”
STATEMENT BY U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL (NY), Ranking Member on House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
“Just as we have supported Colombia through years of war, we must support it in peace. We cannot forget the lessons of the recent past where we won the war and then, through lack of funding and misplaced priorities, lost the peace.
Now is the time to remain steadfast in our support for Colombia and make a multi-year commitment to the country. I urge my colleagues in Congress to join me in ensuring that we provide Colombia with the support it deserves in Fiscal Year 2017 and beyond.”