Catholic Church Front And Center In Peace Deal With Colombian Narcos

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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The Roman Catholic Church in Colombia is cautiously optimistic that its support of the Colombian government’s ceasefire with a major narco group will lead to a lasting peace.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ government agreed to a permanent ceasefire Thursday with Marxist drug-trafficking rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The government and FARC fighters have fought each other for 52 years — the longest-running conflict of the Western Hemisphere.

The president of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, said that the permanent mutual ceasefire is just “part one” of the peace process, according to Crux. Archbishop Castro said, “It is one thing to stop war, it is quite another to build peace.”

Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, visited Colombia in April 2015 and publicly encouraged the government and FARC rebels to achieve a lasting peace. The Vatican wrote to the Pope’s Colombian lieutenants in the Catholic Church, stating in part, “His Holiness invites you to be collaborators in the construction of peace.”

FARC rebels are notorious for systematic mistreatment of women, including forcing female fighters to get abortions. Twelve-year-old girls in the terrorist organization have reportedly been forced to get IUDs.

The government and FARC fighters have negotiated since November 2012. Peace talks were meant to wrap up in March according to a self-imposed deadline by both sides, but the talks were extended. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with both rebel and government negotiators in March during President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba.

FARC rebel leader Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londono wrote an open letter to Pope Francis in April, asking him to intervene on their behalf as an impartial broker in talks with the Colombian government. Timochenko wrote to the pontiff in part that he felt talks were “sabotaged” by politicians with ties to paramilitary organizations.

A final peace deal is expected as soon as July. Colombian voters will then go to the polls in a referendum and either approve or reject the proposed peace plan.

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