BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (BosNewsLife) -- Colombia's main evangelical churches have urged the government and rebel groups to end an armed struggle, after the killings of over 130 evangelical pastors and "countless" other civilians, Christian activists said Tuesday April 4.
The Colombian Evangelical Council of Churches (CEDECOL) adopted a statement saying that evangelicals support "a just resolution to the conflict and to upholding principles of human dignity in their country," explained religious rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which monitored the talks.
"It comes at a particularly difficult period for Colombian Christians, who in March, saw two pastors brutally assassinated in separate cases in the town of Buenaventura," CSW added. CEDECOL blamed the killings on armed groups who continue attacks against civilians, while large swaths of the countryside are under guerrilla influence.
"More than 130 evangelical pastors have been assassinated in Colombia by the different armed groups over the past four years," CSW added.
The violence is part of a 40-year conflict between government forces and rebels and paramilitary groups, both heavily funded by the drug trade, which escalated since the 1990s, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
CEDECOL urged all fighting parties to “heed society’s cry for an end to the armed struggle.” It added that rebel groups involved in peace dialogues should “continue their efforts in an honest and genuine desire to build a lasting peace in Colombia,” according to published comments.
Ricardo Esquivia, the national director of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace (CRLP) at CEDECOL reportedly said that “the document marks the beginning of the Evangelical Church’s new position in its commitment to peace in Colombia,” ahead of upcoming elections.
The statement was based on decisions made at the first National Summit of Evangelical Christian Churches for Peace in Colombia, held on the island of San Andres in February. That gathering was apparently attended by over 100 officials such as church leaders, Christian politicians, theologians, social workers and Western observers, including CSW.
The eight-page document adopted by CEDECOL also addresses issues such as the situation of children in the conflict, demobilization, forced displacement, truth, justice and reparation.
"Peace is not achieved simply by laying down weapons, but by building conditions, a culture and a spirituality of peace," the statement warned. "The Evangelical Christian churches undertake to provide the spiritual foundation for preparing fertile ground for peace, for life in harmony with others, and for social justice," it explained.
CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that the evangelical imitative in Colombia was aimed at a "positive transformation" in the South American nation. He said his group recognizes "the high price that many Christians in Colombia have paid for holding firm to the principles of their faith.”
Evangelicals comprise a minority in the country as about 90 percent of Columbia's roughly 43 million people are Roman Catholics, according to official estimates. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife Research and reports from Colombia).
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