Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Colombia: Pope Brings Hope to Post-FARC Colombia?

Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Colombia: Pope Brings Hope to Post-FARC Colombia?

Article excerpt

Last week, Pope Francis arrived in Colombia for the country's first papal visit since 1986. Upon arrival at the at the Catam military base, he was received by a white dove decorated with orchids. It was presented to him by the 13-year old son of Clara Rojas, a congresswoman who was kidnapped by FARC and gave birth while held captive in the jungle. The gift was symbolic of the pope's mission in Colombia: to take an aggressive political stance, and to help move the Colombian peace process forward in a country that rejected the peace agreement by a short majority last year. With less than a 40% voter turnout, and a rejection by 50.2% of the voters, the agreement is extremely polarizing among Colombians. President Santos and the Pope were in clear agreement on this objective, with Pope Francis saying, "this visit intends to offer you an incentive, a contribution that in some way paves the path to reconciliation and peace." According to Monsignor Fabio Suescun Mutis, the head of the Pope's visit to Colombia, "taking the first step means recognising the suffering of others, forgiving those who've hurt us." His visit came at a critical time in Colombia. Faith in the sustainability of the peace process is wavering due to delays in demobilization, growing disillusionment with the Santos Administration, and mistrust between Colombian society and FARC, as well as growing importance of other paramilitary groups, drug cartels and guerrillas occupying the void left by the FARC.

The peace agreement in Colombia is a politically polarizing issue. It has drawn heavy criticism from opposition parties, and is set to become a key talking point leading up to the 2018 election.

The politically polarizing effect of the peace agreement placed Pope Francis in a precarious situation, similar to the one he faced in the United States when he came to speak about climate change. …

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