By Jacque Schrag
2013 was a crucial turning point in Colombia’s history. After more than 50 years of civil war, Colombia has shown signs of moving towards peace. Peace negotiations that began in 2012 between the Colombian government and the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) have progressed. Two of the six negotiation points were agreed upon: agrarian reform and political participation for opposition movements. These agreements are positive signs that peace can be achieved.
On April 28-29, 20 Mennonite congregations joined in the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia. With the theme of “Now is the Time for Peace,” congregations hosted events, focused on Colombia in their worship services, and signed a petition to President Obama calling for the United States to actively support the peace process by reducing the amount of military aid.
Much of this aid is used to eradicate illegal drugs produced in the country. In May aerial fumigation destroyed a food security project of the Mennonite Brethren Church in Chocó, Colombia, despite promises from the government that they would not spray that region.
In October Ricardo Esquivia, director of Sembrandopaz (Sowing Peace), visited D.C. and met with congressional offices and the State Department to discuss threats against himself and other community leaders. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) sent a joint letter to the U.S. Department of State, at the request of MCC and grassroots supporters, urging the State Department and the U.S. embassy in Colombia to take action on behalf of Ricardo Esquivia and other community leaders who are under threat.
MCC will continues to monitor this situation while advocating for a just and peaceful resolution to the decades long conflict. To learn more, see the Fall/Winter 2013 issue of the Washington Memo.