Episcopal Conference of Colombia
Concluding Message of the Seventy-second Extraordinary Plenary Assembly
During our Seventy-second Plenary Assembly, the urgency of the present situation of the country has caused us to ask how to move forward in achieving the peace that all of us Colombians yearn for. With Pope John Paul II, we know that "to achieve peace it is necessary to educate for peace." Thus it has seemed important for us to offer some elements that could help organize a pedagogy of peace that could lead us to an authentic "culture of peace."
We think it would be most useful to invite the people of Colombia to reflect with us and draw out with us the most appropriate consequences and applications of these ten principles which we propose. They would be useful for the various diocesan and parochial groups, and could equally serve those who bear the responsibility for giving direction for a national policy of lasting peace.
- We recognize the sacrosanct worth of every Colombian person, his life and his freedom. "Peace is no more than respect for the inviolable rights of the person ..., while war is born of the violation of these rights and brings with it even graver violations of them."
- There is no peace if there are not clear criteria for sustainable human development, for cultural, economic, political, juridical and ecological development. Thus a very broad agenda is essential for the journey toward peace.
- It is essential to build a national consensus for developing the agenda for Colombia's renewal. Agreements achieved have to have the approval of all, and their compliance ought to be subject to the vigilance of all.
- "If you want peace, go out to meet with the poor." Let us find ways for all to participate, especially the poorest and most excluded. In our work for peace, let us pay very special attention to the victims of the violence: those who have been kidnaped, the displaced, widows and orphans, without any distinction of their social, economic, political or religious conditions, or the reasons behind their sufferings and anguish.
- We have to get the commitment of the political and social parties and movements, business associations and labor unions, and the academic world, so that the march toward peace is not used up in the efforts of one governmental term or become the patrimony of an ideology, of one sector or movement, independently of its tendency.
- "The dialogue for peace is the pressing need for our time." True dialogue is the search for the good through peaceful means; it is the stubborn will to try all possible formulas of negotiation, of mediation, of arbitration, making every effort for the factors of rapprochement to prevail over those of hatred and division.
- "We must give peace arms other than those set aside for killing and destroying humanity. Above all, the arms of morality are necessary." Let us cultivate attitudes of openness and of welcome, of respect, of truth and justice. Let us make the apprenticeship of these values starting with the family, the school, the small neighborhood group. To achieve dialogues and negotiations at the national level, there must first be the collective practice of these very values. In this way the possibilities of divisions will be reduced, and the means of overcoming the inevitable obstacles will be made secure.
- The building of consensus remains blocked by a failure to listen or an attitude of conceding nothing. Thus every process of dialogue or negotiation demands that we reject those "social sins which cry out to heaven" while not forgetting that "among these sins should be noted the sale of drugs, the laundering of illicit profits, corruption of every kind, the terror of violence (terrorism), the arms race, racial discrimination, the inequalities among the social groups, the irrational destruction of the environment."
- "There will be peace to the degree that all humanity learns how to rediscover its original vocation to be a single human family..." Colombia is a part of the great human family. Therefore it welcomes the accompaniment of the international community, without that implying an acceptance of interference in the country's internal affairs. It is well aware of its role and co-responsibility with other nations in the fight against drugs and terrorism, and of its effective participation in a world that is moving toward globalization. In this context, "the re-orientation of international cooperation in terms of a new culture of solidarity" is most necessary.
- There are principles which are non-negotiable in any peace-building process:
- The inviolability of fundamental human rights, espcially the right to life. Therefore, violence as a means of political action of gaining advantage must be renounced.
- The respect for International Humanitarian Law, for even in the midst of the most critical moments of the conflict, we must not forget that we are among fellow humans, and in the case of Colombia, among fellow Christians, children of God.
- The preservation of national sovereignty and unity, as well as of territorial integrity.
- The effective state of democracy and of the state of law.
- The use of legitimate force under the exclusive head of the democratic state.
- Above all, it is essential to recall that convictions of faith are not negotiable.
"Peace is a building that is under constant construction." This task of construction requires the efforts of the parents of families and their children, of educators and workers, of office holders and politicians, of members of non-governmental organizations and all those responsible for the media, of people of faith and those who seek God with a sincere heart.
We pastors, united with our priests and religious and lay evangelizers, take on the commitment to work seriously along the lines of the ten principles just enunciated.
"What conclusions can be drawn for an education for peace?... A wager about man and a wager about God... The lesson for educating for peace is clear: it is an abundant humanism. Development must be whole, that is, it must promote all people and the whole person... There is no true humanism if it is not open to the Absolute... ."
The Centenary of the Consecration of Colombia to the Sacred Heart is an excellent occasion to continue the evangelizing task that educates for and leads to peace. The events we have planned for the month of June will be an opportunity for us Colombians to join together and express our thinking not only about the armed conflict, but also about the urgent need we have to convert our lives to the love of God and of our brothers and sisters. The celebration of this Centenary reminds us that we are called by God to be one single family, in solidarity and in peace, recalling that "there is no peace without justice, and no justice without pardon," so that, moved by Our Lord Jesus Christ, we may build "the civilization of love."
May Mary, Queen of Peace, be with us in this historic moment of our homeland.
Bogotá, D.C., March 8, 2002
+Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo
Archbishop of Medellín
President of the Episcopal Conference