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Peacemaker to share the struggles of reaching a lasting peace in Colombia

Rev. Luis Fernando Sanmiguel is among peacemakers visiting the US this fall

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – For 160 years, the Presbyterian Church has had a presence and witness in Colombia. But that presence has never been more important than it has the past 30 years. Rev. Luis Fernando Sanmiguel has worked closely with government leaders and opposing rebel forces to bring a lasting peace to his country.

Rev. Luis Fernando Sanmiguel

Rev. Luis Fernando Sanmiguel

Sanmiguel serves as pastor of the Community of Hope Presbyterian Church in Colombia. A peace advocate for more than 25 years, he has been involved in a variety of social justice and human rights activities, including peace talks between the Colombian government and guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

“Over the past 30 years, the church has taken accompaniment action to the victims of the internal armed conflict and from the peace talks between the government of President [Juan Manuel] Santos and FARC-EP,” said Sanmiguel. “The church has been present at the negotiation tables, serving as a source of reconciliation.”

Sanmiguel’s work also includes serving on the Commission for Social Oversight appointed by the Dialogue in Havana, Cuba. He also leads a peace project in the Presbytery of Uraba in Colombia and coordinates an interfaith movement in Bogota.

“The main difficulties we face in peacemaking and human rights advocacy are the murders and threats of death,” he said. “But there are rewards in this work, including protecting the lives of peasants, workers, farmers and other vulnerable people in all of Colombia.”

Sanmiguel is one of a dozen International Peacemakers speaking across the United States this fall. The Peacemakers will be speaking from September 23 to October 17.

Carl Horton, coordinator for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, says the annual visits from visitors like Sanmiguel give churches a front row seat to the struggles in other countries.

“It affirms our partnership and strengthens our bonds with Christian denominations and institutions around the world. It puts a face on a conflict, crisis, disaster or impoverished population,” he said. “It can serve as a firsthand account of a media-saturated situation. It can also bring to focus real concerns that have been lost by the media.”

Sanmiguel says he will share some history on the 68 years of armed conflict in Colombia when he meets with US congregations on the role the church has played in trying to find peaceful solutions.

“I will share about the peace talks that have taken place as well as the social work of the church,” said Sanmiguel. “I’m hoping my visit will strengthen ties of friendship and partnership between Colombia and PC(USA) churches. I hope it will promote evangelism and cultural exchange between our two countries, as well as different ministries of the church relating to children, youth, men and women’s ministries and others.”

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has invited leaders from partner denominations and organizations to visit the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for more than 30 years. Speakers from 57 countries have taken part in the program, visiting churches, synods, presbyteries and educational institutions.

Click here for more information about the 2016 International Peacemakers.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is supported in part by the Peace and Global Witness Offering.

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