(Washington, D.C) April 29, 2014 — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA joined 50 U.S. faith leaders today in a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry urging the Obama Administration to continue and amplify its support for the Colombian peace process. The letter calls on the Obama Administration to transform U.S. assistance to Colombia from military aid to assistance directed at supporting peace. It also calls on the White House to emphasize the rights of victims of violence of all the armed actors and offer more vocal support for the current negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC and possible negotiations with the ELN.
As part of the 2014 Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia Campaign, leaders from a wide range of religious communities and faith-based organizations across the United States called on the administration to ensure U.S. assistance prioritizes "the safe and sustainable return of land for internally displaced persons and refugees as well as the promotion of opportunities for those who do not wish to return to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. We urge the United States to advocate for and provide funding for more effective protection programs for returning communities, as well as for human rights defenders, union members, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, other leaders and communities at risk, and political groups that may join the electoral process following the peace accords."
Furthermore, the letter calls on the U.S. to rethink its counter-narcotics strategy and support alternative development programs crafted with the direct participation of small-scale farmers and rural communities, rather than destroying their crops and damaging their health through forced aerial eradication programs.
Finally, the leaders call on the U.S. to further press the Colombian government to dismantle paramilitary successor groups and to properly investigate and prosecute members of Colombia’s security forces credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights. "Only when all the varied sources of violence are addressed can peace take root."
For more information, contact:
• Rev. Fritz Gutwein Associate Director, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, email@example.com, t: 502-821-3437
• Rev. Michael Neuroth, Policy Advocate for International Issues, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, firstname.lastname@example.org, t: (202)543-1517
• Mary Small, Assistant Director for Policy, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, email@example.com, t: (202) 629-5942
• Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director, Latin America Working Group, firstname.lastname@example.org; t: (202) 546-7010