Opinion: After ‘no’ vote, what’s next for Colombia?

Evangelical churches played a key role in rejection of peace agreement

Oct 24, 2016 by

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The transformative power of the process that sought to end Colombia’s 50-year civil war was evident in the bilateral cease-fire and the FARC guerrillas’ commitment to meet their objectives through dialogue as opposed to arms.

Even so, when the accord was put to a vote Oct. 2, it did not pass. Of the 38 percent of the population who voted, 50.2 percent voted no and 49.8 percent voted yes.

Everyone said they wanted peace, but those who opposed the agreements said they could not accept peace on these terms.

The accord was intensely debated in all quarters, including the churches, and certainly among the Anabaptist churches belonging to Mennonite World Conference.

Given the campaign to reject the accord put forward by some leaders of the largest evangelical churches, and given the close outcome of the vote, it is difficult to ignore the crucial impact of the evangelical churches on the result.

Those who voted yes saw the agreements as a way to achieve disarmament in favor of nonviolent political action, peacebuilding efforts free from stigma or threat, restorative justice, priority to victims and proposals that address socioeconomic realities in a way that can bring about well-being for the country and the most vulnerable.

Those who voted no were concerned that transitional justice is equivalent to impunity. They believe the participation of insurgent leaders in politics is unacceptable. They fear the demobilized guerillas will receive too many benefits, that rural reform will negatively affect the economy and that the preferential treatment for women and those who identify as LGBTQ (both of whom were seen as having been particularly victimized) introduces a “gender ideology” that constitutes an attack on the family. This last issue was of great concern for many in the churches.

It is also important to note that distortions were allegedly used as campaign propaganda.

How did this happen?

In the churches, we are asking how it is possible that we could have come to such different conclusions based on the same Bible and the same lordship of Christ.

This is an opportunity to grow in our capacity to approach critical topics in such a way as to strengthen unity in light of 1 Cor. 12:7, which affirms that “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

As Anabaptists in Colombia, God has given us the grace to grow in our capacity to worship God and work together without denying our differences. This includes joint worship services and working together on peace education, on conscientious objection, with victims, with children and with vulnerable populations.

In this collaboration of our churches and institutions, we recognize the significant support of Mennonite Central Committee and MWC. We will all continue to pray for peace and join our efforts, each contributing according to the light given them. We seek to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Hopeful signs

Now that the plebiscite is over, the government has created working groups and is meeting with political parties and groups opposed to the agreements to consider revisions that can lead to a national consensus.

Citizen movements are mobilizing to insist that the war must not resume and are asking to be included in the process. The FARC has reiterated its commitment to using words as a political tool instead of arms.

All this will mean returning to the negotiating table. Achieving consensus will not be easy, but it could mean an agreement more inclusive of the whole population. To this, we add our prayer and work for the start of negotiations with yet another armed group, the National Liberation Army.

We will remain firm in our work for peace and for salvation, trusting in the promise of Mark 4:26-29 that the seed will grow, and we will reap the kingdom of God.

Pablo Stucky is Latin America-Andean Region representative for Mennonite World Conference.


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