New Steps

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, left, greets Timoleón Jiménez, supreme commander the Farc, during the finalizing of the peace agreement in Havana. In the center is President Raul Castro of Cuba.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, left, greets Timoleón Jiménez, supreme commander the Farc, during the finalizing of the peace agreement in Havana. In the center is President Raul Castro of Cuba.

Over the past few months, we as Seeders have been privileged to witness a number of momentous occasions.

  1. First, in July, the Colombian government signed a bilateral ceasefire with the largest and oldest armed group in Colombia, the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a group who has been in combat with the state for more than 50 years.
  2. In August, a 6-point peace accord that the FARC and government negotiators have been working on since 2012 was agreed upon by both parties, with a formal signing to be done on September 23rd.
  3. On October 2nd, the Colombian people will head to the voting booth to be asked one question, “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and the construction of a stable and long-lasting peace?” Simple, no?

This vote, referred to as the plebiscite here in Colombia, divides opinion. Some support the process, touting that it is a step toward true peace in Colombia, while others counter that it is a farce aimed at deceiving the Colombian population while enriching the pockets of armed actors. Still, countless valid perspectives and arguments exist among lies and campaigns throughout every corner of the country, and as Seeders living and working in different regions of Colombia, we have a unique opportunity to view and learn from the complexities and paradoxes of the process.

The ratification of the accords via the plebiscite will allow the Colombian congress to sign the deal into law and most importantly, give legitimacy to the process. The deal calls for at least 4.5 million Colombians to vote ‘Yes’, about 13% of the voting population, and of course to outnumber the ‘No’ votes. If the vote passes, a series of steps will kick into gear so that the 6-point plan, which includes reparations for victims, rural land reform, among others, can start to be implemented.

In the weeks leading up to October 2, as the campaigns intensify and the stakes get higher, the Seeders will be sharing stories, opinions, perspectives, hopes, and concerns from the many people in communities where they are serving and living. Each Colombian, directly or indirectly, has been touched by the ongoing armed conflict, and therefore we cannot negate any stance about the peace accords. We hope that the different opinions and perspectives of these Colombians will inspire you to reflect on what peace requires.

*Note that there still exist many armed groups in almost every corner of the country and many Colombians continue to live in fear of what will come out of this negotiation. In many cases, names will be changed or not mentioned at all to protect the identities of people whom MCC and MCC partners accompany.

(Photograph: Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images/https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/25/colombia-truce-farc-maria-jimena-duzan)

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