Colombia: Christian aid agencies welcome groundbreaking new peace deal

Students take part in an evacuation drill to prepare them in case they get caught in crossfire between the army and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, at a school in Toribio, Cauca.Reuters

Christian aid agencies have welcomed the ground-breaking peace deal reached in Colombia which brings to an end more than half a century of deadly conflict.

The deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, brings to an end the longest internal armed conflict in the Western hemisphere in which more than 220,000 people were killed and more than six million displaced.

It was finally agreed yesterday in Havana, Cuba after many months of negotiations. It now awaits approval by public vote in Colombia on 2 October.

Clare Dixon, head of CAFOD Latin America said: "The agreement is a major step forward on what will be a long road to peace in Colombia, one which requires the transformation of the country and the accompaniment and participation of all of Colombian society and the international community.

"This is an historic moment for Colombia. The end of the armed conflict is near, and we hope this deal will bring an end to the violence and fear that has devastated the lives of over 7 million people, particularly those living in rural areas; farming communities, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Peoples."

Sergio Coronado, deputy director of CAFOD partner Centre for Research and Popular Education, said: "We are celebrating this news, this is the start of a long journey to transform the country, although we still face many challenges before we can say Colombia is a country at peace."

Thomas Mortensen, manager in Colombia for Christian Aid said: "The enormous effort made by the government and the FARC to reach this agreement must be congratulated. However, there remain many outstanding issues which could hinder the success of the peace process.

"The resurgence of paramilitaries is a major threat to peace building in Colombia. Paramilitaries are responsible for most of the attacks and threats against human rights defenders today and they continue to be behind forced displacements and disappearances of people here. In fact, we have seen an increase in attacks during the peace talks.

"Therefore, we urge the Colombian government to take action to dismantle these groups, including investigating, prosecuting and sanctioning any public official collaborating with these groups, to ensure non repetition."