Seeking Peace: How Lutherans Have Walked With the People of Colombia

“Terror is our daily bread. We dare to speak out because the church and the international community need to know what is happening”

-Community leader, Córdoba. 2009

Peace has come to Colombia at long last. In November 2016, a peace accord was signed by the Colombia government and the FARC rebels that ended a 52-year war. The conflict has caused the worst case of internal displacement in the world, with more than seven million Colombians forced out of their homes. Over the course of the conflict, more than 200,000 people, most of whom were non-combatants, lost their lives and over 100,000 were disappeared.

Despite the peace accord being rejected by a small margin, the commitment in Colombia to a path to peace is well established. As stated by President Santos, “I will not give up, I will continue to fight for peace.”

As we continue to pray and wait with the people of Colombia, here are just a few of the ways that Lutherans have played their own part in promoting peace and healing in the country over the past few decades.

Salt and Light

Lutherans across the United States have played their own part in promoting peace and healing in Colombia over the last few decades. Some of you may recall “Sal y Luz”, Salt and Light, an innovative program funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which was part of  the “Give Peace a Place” Initiative that sought to initiate and strengthen dialogue and collaborative action among faith-based groups in Colombia, and between U.S. and Colombian faith-based groups.

Students at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn. taking part in an educational session, as a part of the Sal y Luz project with Lutheran World Relief. (2004)

Thousands of Lutherans also prayed for peace in Colombia and hundreds of Lutherans also participated in LWR’s letter writing campaigns to shape U.S. foreign policy toward Colombia, promoting peace and reducing armed conflict. Dozens of Lutheran congregations hosted the Remember Me Gallery, an interactive art exhibit that brought to life the stories, experiences and struggles of the people of Colombia and highlights initiatives for peace and justice. The Gallery is now housed in Bogota in the Centro de Memoria Historica.

And hundreds more have supported our on-going work in Colombia to help people affected by the conflict lead lives of dignity despite so much hardship.  Your support has helped:

The Pro-Cafe project has helped farmers to improve their land and coffee crops, increase access improved water and sanitation facilities, and use principles of crop diversification and agro-forestry to protect their land and eco-systems.

With your support, LWR has also led rigorous research and policy recommendations related to Plan Colombia and the Colombian Government’s law to re-appropriate land to the displaced:

Colombia’s New Rural Reality

As noted by LWR President and CEO, Daniel Speckhard, it’s important to continue to walk with the people of Colombia as they seek to build on this long-awaited peace and reconciliation.

So the work for peace doesn’t end here. Lawlessness, drug traffickers and other armed criminal groups, known as bandas criminales or BACRIM, continue to plague the countryside in Colombia. The millions of people displaced by the war are not likely to return home right away because of the on-going instability.

With almost a third of Colombia’s population living in rural areas of the country, Colombia has to address its “new rural reality” as part of the post-peace process. LWR is finalizing a new report titled “The challenge and opportunity of peace in rural Colombia – Voices from the New Countryside,” which compiles recommendations from community leaders, NGO representatives, academics and politicians on a way forward for rural development in Colombia. With your continued support, we also remain committed to working with partners to reach out to rural communities in Colombia to help improve livelihoods and build a better way forward.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers. Working together, we hope for a day when terror is no longer a part of the daily bread for thousands of people across Colombia.