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Praying with refugees: the real face of peace
01 January 2013

Involving refugees in the dialogue on peace building in Latin America is the only way to bring justice for the thousands of displaced persons, Táchira, Venezuela (JRS Venezuela)
While international attention focuses on the perpetrators, we forget about people that continue facing the ravages of war, inside and outside of Colombia.
Caracas, 1 January 2013 – Recently, the Colombian government has opened peace talks with the with the largest left-wing guerrilla group, the FARC. Surely real peace building in Latin America needs participation of the victims of armed conflict in Colombia.

A Colombian refugee woman in Venezuela, when asked what the word "homeland" meant in her situation, she gasped, closed her eyes to stop the tears rolling down her face, but said nothing. In this political climate, she and many others expelled from Colombia wonder if their homeland, which failed to protect their human rights, has really changed.

More than peace, as an ideal and a human right, what is most encouraging is the hopeful end to the armed conflict. This would allow Colombians to progress on remedying the structural causes of violence in the country, by making it possible for everyone to benefit from the protection of their fundamental human rights and to rebuild a more inclusive country.

As long as the war goes on, strengthening a state-of-emergency mind-set, many political decisions regarding the future of Colombia will continue to be taken without necessary consultation and respect for individual rights. The unanswered question is: what type of country was being built under the illusion of the war on terrorism?

While international attention focuses on the perpetrators, we forget about people that continue facing the ravages of war, inside and outside of Colombia. Now, as the Colombian government pushes discussions with the FARC, it is essential that the voices of those who were forced to flee their land are not lost, or their participation in reparation processes inside Colombia and within discussions about the possible voluntary return home of Colombian refugee families.

Reflections for prayer
"The experience of fleeing is terrible, it is one thing to speak about it and something very distinct to live it. When I arrived in Cúcuta most of my neighbours rejected us because they thought it was too dangerous to be near us. But only God knows that most of those who were displaced did not do anything to deserve displacement, it was simply because we were community leaders.

I started to work with this community in 1985, and I continue to do so. I have faith that God brought me here for some useful reason and until my life ends I'll continue … my idea is to continue offering them my support", said a displaced woman, a leader of organisational processes for women and victims, in Norte de Santander, Colombia.

We have a desire for justice for all those people who have been victims and who we have accompanied. We do not want to give the war and the combatants the last word. The hope of these victims, in the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ can be concretely put into action through the reality of reconciliation.

Scripture for reading
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matthew 5.7)

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgment, and show kindness and compassion toward each other. (Zechariah 7.9)