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.