But now, after a half century of war, multiple attempts at peace, and four years of negotiations, the country is preparing to vote whether or not to approve the Havana Peace Accords. Last month the government and the FARC guerillas, the largest rebel group, agreed to a cease fire. Just this past week the FARC voted unanimously to approve the accords. This is only a first step towards peace. Colombia faces many challenges in regards to the actual disarming of the rebels and the building of peace. You can read more about these challenges here. Nevertheless, this is an important first step towards ending the longest running war in the Western hemisphere.
It’s no wonder that peace is all Colombia can talk about. Just as the presidential election consumes the minds of United States citizens, debates over the October 2 plebiscite on the peace accords has taken over nearly every aspect of Colombian life. It’s all over television, radio, and social media. Signs, billboards, even graffiti urge people to vote yes or no. Even in church, every service and bible study I have attended has in some way centered on the idea of peace. The Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC) recently came out in favor of the accords, the first Colombian church to do so. I encourage you to read their short but powerful statement here. This decision has been controversial, as there is still much opposition to the accords. The IPC acknowledges that the accords are incomplete and imperfect, but I would like to note two quotes that, from my conversations with the church, adequately sum up why they have chosen to support the accords.
The first is, “we are tired of the barbarity of war.” Colombians are tired of war. They are tired of the violence and the pain. They are ready for peace. The accords are not perfect, but in such a complex conflict, there is no perfect solution. There is no easy peace that will satisfy all sides. It took four years of negotiations to arrive at this point, and if it fails it could be many more before there is another opportunity. “We are tired of the barbarity of war.”
The second quote is this: “As followers of Jesus, we can choose no other way than that of peace, a sustainable peace that goes hand in hand with repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration.” Coming in as an outsider, with only a rudimentary understanding of the conflict and the pain it has caused in the lives of so many Colombians, I feel unqualified to speak for or against the accords. But this statement reminds me that as Christians, it is our calling to work for peace. The IPC has decided that working for peace means supporting the accords, and I support my sisters and brothers in their efforts.
For more information on the peace accords and the upcoming plebiscite: