Some 50 religious leaders asked US President Barack Obama to revise the assistance to Colombia and to further support the peace process.
The group issued an open letter to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, urging them to continue their support for the peace process in Colombia, but also advocated for the rights of victims of violence.
The religious leaders requested for the US to focus on humanitarian assistance and strengthening civil society as opposed to being solely focused on military aspects. “We urge our government to undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. assistance to Colombia … to ensure that our aid is carefully designed to support peace,” expressed the leaders in the letter.
“Rather than military aid, assistance must be transformed to support the implementation of the peace agreement, humanitarian assistance and human rights, and the strengthening of civil institutions,” suggested the religious leaders.
The clergies also requested that the American government supports “more effective programs aimed at community protection in return processes as well as human rights defenders, trade unionists, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.”
Obama’s administration was also asked to “undertake a much greater effort to urge the Colombian government to dismantle paramilitary successor groups “, and to investigate those who “encourage, support and tolerate these brutal groups.”
The letter was signed by 50 faith groups, mainly representatives of different branches of Christianity, but also an Islamic organization.
The signatories acknowledged that “certain areas” of the American government have expressed interest in changing the nature of the aid to Colombia, but warned that “it has not yet made a complete overhaul,” and for that reason the faith leaders demanded for the process to be initiated immediately.
In the letter, Obama was praised of his administration’s expressed support for the peace initiative, but was urged to take a firmer stance in order to convince “skeptics” about the possibility of achieving peace. “Most visible signs of support and encouragement from the United States … can encourage the parties to negotiate and help convince skeptical members of the Colombian public after witnessing so many years war,” they said.
The religious leaders urged Obama to prioritize “the safe and sustainable return of land to IDP’s (Internally Displaced Persons) and refugees as well as promoting opportunities for those who wish to return so that they can rebuild their lives and livelihoods.”
The Colombian government is currently in the midst of peace talks in Havana, Cuba in the hopes of ending half a century of armed conflict. The dialogues began in November 2012.
- Piden a Obama profundizar apoyo al proceso de paz (Caracol Radio)
- Líderes religiosos exigen a Obama incrementar ayuda a Colombia (El Espectador)
- The Faith Leaders’ Letter (Latin American Working Group)