While governments and corporations may paint a rosy picture of Colombia, some facts are worth bearing in mind. Colombia’s continual internal armed conflict perpetuates serious human rights abuses by guerillas, paramilitaries, and the state military. By some estimates, the conflict has resulted in approximately 5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), the largest in Latin America and arguably in the world. Colombia continues to be the most dangerous place on earth for union leaders, as reported by the International Trade Union Confederation. Human rights defenders face threats, attacks, forced disappearances, and murder at alarming levels. Extractive industries such as oil, gas, and gold mining, run by foreign owned corporations, force indigenous communities off their land, pollute the environment, and operate with little oversight or accountability. A weak justice system and government complicity means that impunity for such human rights crimes is extremely high.
Yet not only has military aid proved ineffective in curbing the drug trade, it has exacerbated the violence, adding fuel to the flame.
Moreover, Colombia is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the hemisphere, far exceeding the amounts given in social and economic assistance. Yet not only has military aid proved ineffective in curbing the drug trade, it has exacerbated the violence, adding fuel to the flame.
Against this backdrop of systemic violence and injustice perpetrated internally by armed actors and externally by U.S. military assistance and transnational corporations, many Colombian churches have taken up, at great cost and personal risk, the kind of fast that God has called for: “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6).
In mid-June, a delegation of leaders from the Peace Commission of the Evangelical Council of Colombia (CEDECOL) visited Washington, D.C. Representing about 70 percent of the Protestant, evangelical, and Anabaptist churches in Colombia, the Commission is active in the work of peace, justice, and human rights in the midst of the turmoil in Colombia. These leaders came to speak to Congress about the continual violence and injustice faced by their communities, and the detrimental role of U.S. military aid. The churches are calling for a holistic approach that supports a negotiated end to violence and conflict, strengthens the judicial system and independent human rights sectors, and protects human rights defenders.
Let us join the Colombian churches in their struggle for human rights, justice, and peace in their communities. At the same time, let us also be open to the brokenness in our own communities, where we, too, must seek the welfare of our cities and our nations (Jeremiah 29:7).
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