Statement: A Call to Unity and Hope, February 21, 2002
We Colombian Bishops, meeting at the Episcopal Conference headquarters, have held a Seminar-Workshop on the theme of "THE COLOMBIA WE DESIRE."
In the midst of our work, we took the opportunity to listen to the speech of the President of the Republic last evening, in which he communicated to the country the decision of "not continuing the peace process" with the FARC and of "canceling the neutral zone, starting today at midnight."
In view of this historical event, of such great importance for Colombia, we have reflected together and would now like to share these reflections with our very dear brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens.
- First of all, we understand that our pastoral responsibility is particularly important during this complex time. We call on all Colombians to increase their prayers for peace and justice. The Lord Jesus Christ opens up a door for us: "Ask and you shall receive…" The power of prayer is great and is within reach of all Colombians.
We renew our own commitment, as indicated in the following expressions of our task of evangelization:
1.1 We seek to continue offering our services to all Colombians, without any exception whatsoever, receiving them and accompanying them. We understand that everyone needs to come closer to the Lord Jesus Christ, to experience His call to conversion, reconciliation, unity, and solidarity.
1.2 We want to keep a lively hope in the hearts of all. Jesus, the Lord of life and history, walks by our side. In every Colombian there is the ability to build something new.
1.3 We want to awaken the sense of belonging in those who make up this country. The recovery of peace, the accomplishment of justice, the overcoming of poverty and exclusion is a responsibility of us all. Every Colombian must contribute with his or her thoughts and actions to defend the life of every single person, as well as the goods that are part of our common heritage. These considerations are particularly important during this current pre-electoral period. Candidates and voters alike must look ahead in the same direction–what the country needs so that the rights of all can be a reality.
1.4 We know that we are ministers of mercy and comfort, and very particularly for the victims who experience violence in many shapes and forms in our land: victims of kidnaping, forced displacement, relatives of those who have been killed in massacres, those who have been deprived of their property through violence. To all them we give witness of our closeness to them and of our support in prayer.
1.5 Based on the Gospel and the Social Doctrine of the Church, we are attempting to work on priority issues so that Colombia may experience peace and follow the path of true progress. The priorities pointed out on so many occasions by the Holy Father and included in our pastoral program, continue to nourish our work, particularly with those in greatest need.
- We respect and support the decision of the President. In a state of law such as ours it is necessary to close ranks to defend our legitimate authorities and to support the institutions that guarantee the life and honor of Colombians.
- Within the context of this time of Lent, we are invited to change our way of thinking and renew our way of living, listening to the World of God that invites us to "be reconciled with God" (2 Cor. 5: 20). Peace for individuals, families and communities demands this personal conversion. Beginning with profound soul searching, we will dedicate our reflection, work and prayers so that peace, "a gift from God and our common task," can be built in Colombia.
- We continue firm in our conviction that dialogue and negotiation are the way to overcome conflict and establish a culture of peace. We will be attentive to the development of events and offer our services to accompany any new initiative that may be considered useful at this time or in the near future.
- We issue an appeal to all Colombians in the FARC and in other violent groups. With love for our country and listening to the voice of God, it is always the time to take decisions and change paths, so as to be able to construct the country we all want and to which all of our citizens have a right.
We pray to Our Lady Queen of Peace that she may walk with us at this time.
Bogotá, D.C., 21 February 2002
+ Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo
Archbishop of Medellín
President of the Episcopal Conference