The Bishop of Colombia has issued a call to prayer after voters rejected a referendum that would have approved a peace deal ending the 50-year old guerilla war between the government and FARC.
The Bishop of Colombia, the Rt. Rev. Francisco Duque has issued a call to prayer for his South American country after voters rejected a referendum on 2 Oct 2016 that would have approved a peace deal ending the 50-year old guerilla war between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. “We call on the church to pray a lot so that the necessary accord is reached and so that we can all live as brothers,” Bishop Duque, adding: “Let’s achieve a peace that brings justice, reparations and not repetition.” After four years of peace talks in Havana, the government and FARC leaders reached an accord on 26 Aug 2016 that addressed the terms of ceasefire, rural land reform, the integration of FARC into the country’s political life and an agreed response to halt narcotics production and trafficking. In July the country’s constitutional court approved a government plan to put the agreement before the voters for approval. The ballot asked voters “¿Apoya el acuerdo final para terminación del conflicto y construcción de una paz estable y duradera?” (Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?). With approximately 38 per cent of those eligible to vote casting a ballot, the measure was defeated 6.377,482 to 6,431,376 or 49.79 per cent to 50.21 per cent. Bishop Duque told the Episcopal News Service: “We’re still in shock. We haven’t processed the results yet. It was a vote based on emotion, opinion. The people who showed up to vote ‘no’ didn’t want to let anyone know their opinion before so they wouldn’t be judged, but when they went to the polls they expressed themselves.” He added: “Earlier polling projected that more than 60 percent of the population would vote yes, but the reality was very different, and many people didn’t even turn out to vote.” The government and FARC have each stated they would independently honor the terms of the ceasefire, while the parties return to the negotiating table. Bishop Duque said: “The people have had doubts about what the FARC will get [after the accord], but all of us want an end to the war. As a church we see our role will be to reconcile brothers with such polarized opinions and to pursue building peace together.” Pollsters and politicians were not the only ones caught off guard by the vote. On 26 Sept 2016 Pope Francis told representatives of the World Jewish Council described supporters of the accord as those who “risk everything for peace,” while those opposed “risk everything to continue the war, and this wounds the soul.” The country’s Catholic Episcopal Conference had asked Catholics to vote according to their conscience, and a number of leading bishops backed the “no” campaign. The Episcopal Church in Colombia backed the “yes” campaign, endorsing the peace process at their May diocesan convention.