CHRISTIAN AID partners in the diocese of Colombia have welcomed “a political moment of great historical significance” after the government agreed a ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end 50 years of civil war.
The FARC movement, formed in 1964, is the oldest and largest guerrilla groups among left-wing rebels in Colombia, and one of the richest rebel armies in the world.
The announcement, on Thursday of last week, will end one of the longest-running insurgencies in the Western hemisphere, which has cost the lives of more than 220,000 people and displaced about six million. More than 25,000 people are still missing, and thousands have suffered sexual violence.
Padre Alberto, of the Interchurch Dialogue for Peace, a Christian Aid partner in Colombia, said that the agreement “intends to put an end to an armed confrontation between the Colombian government and the FARC that has lasted for over half a century, and to advance the pilgrimage of peace as the fruit of justice”.
Another Christian Aid partner, the Network of Communities Constructing Peace in Territories, said: “Today is a very special and happy day. . . This is a great step towards social and environmental justice and towards the building of a stable and lasting peace.”
The ceasefire agreement was one of the final steps of three years of peace talks in the Cuban capital of Bogota before a full peace deal is signed within the next month.
It includes a commitment from FARC rebels to give up their arms to UN monitors within 180 days of signing, as well as the creation of temporary transition zones and camps for the estimated 7000 FARC rebels, in which no civilians will be allowed to enter.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who was in Bogota, welcomed the ceasefire in a “world set by seemingly intractable war”.
The conflict has cost thousands of lives and involved a number of hostage situations conducted by rebels. Several attempts at peace had been made in the past half a century, but none had yielded.
The director of Caritas Colombia, part of the Christian charity Caritas Internationalis, Héctor Fabio Henao, wrote in The Guardian last week that the ceasefire was a “major step forward. But we need to be realistic.”
He warned that FARC was one of several illegal armed groups in the country. “Another is the National Liberation Army, or ELN. . . unless [they] also agree to a bilateral ceasefire and sign up to a negotiated peace agreement, we can’t say the armed conflict has ended because, in many regions, hostilities and human rights violations will continue.”