Presbyterian Ministry at the UN hopeful for political solution in Colombia

Map of ColombiaOn January 25, 2016, the United Nations Security Council acted to “to set up a United Nations political mission in Colombia, approving a team of international observers to monitor disarmament should the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) reach a final agreement to end Latin America’s longest armed conflict.”

We welcome this step toward peace and give thanks for our partners in Colombia, particularly in the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, and the United States and elsewhere who have worked, and continue to work, for a just peace for our sisters and brothers.

Thanks to the Presbyterian News Service for this story on this important step:

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations is cautiously optimistic about the prospect of peace between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP.) The U.N. Security Council recently approved plans to set up a United Nations political mission in the country. A team of international observers will be sent to monitor disarmament once the Colombian government and FARC-EP reach a final agreement.

Presbyterians have a long history of ministry in Colombia. Working with a partner church and through mission personnel, Presbyterians are involved in leadership development, theological training, and advocacy for human rights and peace in Colombia, at the United Nations, and by the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.

Through the Colombia Accompaniment Program, coordinated by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in cooperation with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Programand World Mission, Presbyterians stand with our partners in Colombia who are faithful witnesses to God’s peace.

“We welcome the Security Council Resolution supporting political initiatives toward a lasting peace in Colombia,” said the Rev. Mark Koenig, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the U.N. “The fact the U.N. Security Council is affirming an ongoing process and pledging support marks a significant step on the long journey toward peace.”

“Both the government and FARC-EP requested the observers’ presence,” said Ryan Smith, Presbyterian representative at the U.N. “The personnel to be deployed to Colombia would be unarmed. Because this is a political rather than a peacekeeping mission, the United Nations will send in unarmed international observers tasked with the monitoring and verification of the laying down of arms.”

The two sides have been in talks for nearly four years, looking at ways to end the 51-year conflict that has claimed nearly a quarter of a million victims. They have reached agreement on such issues as land rights, political participation, illicit drugs and victims’ rights and transitional justice.

German Zarate speaking at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United NationsColombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said as early as last September that the deadline for signing an agreement would be March 23. Under the Security Council measure, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon started preparations after the approval of the Security Council Resolution on January 25 both at U.N. Headquarters and in Colombia.

Koenig notes a number of organizations have been working toward this goal. “The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations has been advocating for U.N. involvement in the peace process both through our own efforts and through visits Ryan has arranged for German Zarate of the Iglesia Presbyterian de Colombia, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s partner church in Colombia. As is always the case in working for justice, we are by no means alone in this advocacy, many non-government organizations and individuals have been involved.”

“In Colombia, we the Presbyterian Church are hopeful and grateful for the actions the U.N. Security Council has taken for peace in our country,” said Zarate. “As people of Colombia, we are filled with joy and hope for the achievement of peace with justice that is awaited by all Colombians.”

The photo shows German Zarate of the Iglesia Presbyterian de Colombia speaking at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations; by Mark Koenig. 

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