The aid agency Cafod has welcomed a historic peace deal between the government and guerrilla rebels in Colombia.
The agreement between the two sides was made on Wednesday in Havana, Cuba where peace talks finally concluded after four years. Government troops and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had been engaged in conflict for over 50 years.
“The end of the armed conflict is near,” said Clare Dixon, Cafod’s Head of Latin America. “We hope this deal will bring an end to the violence and fear that has devastated the lives of over 7 million people, particularly those living in rural areas; farming communities, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Peoples.”
The 52-year long conflict killed over a quarter of a million people in the South American country and displaced millions.
The agreement will see both sides working together to address social exclusion and build a more stable society. Dixon said that the agreement is “a major step forward on what will be a long road to peace in Colombia”.
Cafod praised the Catholic Church’s role during the four-year peace talks. Dixon reported that the Church had served as a mediator between the two sides. Earlier this summer, the bishops’ conference chose 60 representative victims to go to Havana to have their voices heard during the discussions.
Archbishop Luis Castro Quiroga of Tunja – who was present during the talks – recalled how one survivor shared memories of guerrilla fighters killing several members of her family. Moved by the victim’s words, a FARC commander asked her for forgiveness.
Colombia will hold a referendum on October 2 to see whether or not the nation’s citizens will accept the peace deal. Dixon advises them that in order to reach peace, they must “put the past behind them” and accept the deal.