After a decades-long armed conflict, Colombia has the world’s second-highest number of people forced to flee their homes. CAFOD partners provide practical support and help people who have lost their homes to speak up for their rights.
Peace negotiations between the Colombian Government and the formerly largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have been taking place since October 2012. A bilateral ceasefire was announced on 23 June 2016 and in August a final agreement on the peace talks was announced, which was officially signed on 24 November 2016.
In February 2017, formal peace talks started between the guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian Government, who reached a temporary bi-lateral ceasefire agreement ahead of Pope Francis’ visit in September 2017.
The Catholic Church plays a key role in Colombia as an advocate for peace and human rights and in the resettlement of uprooted communities. CAFOD’s programme focuses on peace-building, protection of human rights defenders and communities, sustainable livelihoods, work on business and human rights, and gender based violence.
“Bishop Drainey met with two CAFOD country Programme Managers recently, Conor Molloy works in Ethiopia and Kayode Akintola works in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The meeting was an opportunity to share CAFOD’s work in each country with our Bishop.
Conor, who works on a tripartite agreement between CAFOD, SCIAF and Trocaire (CST), gave a brief recent history of Ethiopia. Following a state of emergency until 2016 and huge protests following the drought brought about by the EI Nino phenomenon which was the worst drought in living memory.
A second EI Nino, starting in the Indian Ocean affected more lowland areas and caused more than 2 million people to be displaced between September 2017 and April 2018. At the same time there has been positive engagement taking place between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the first delegation of Eritrean’s was hosted this month which will hopefully herald a renewed peace between the two nations. CAFOD’s work includes supporting Women’s Empowerment and Resilient Communities Programmes in the country.
Kayode told the Bishop that Sierra Leone was the 6th poorest country on the United Nations index and that the Ebola crisis had brought the country to its knees. Faith leaders had played a key role during the outbreak as they were trusted by their local communities, who explained the need for ‘safe burials’ of victims to reduce the risk of contamination. Following the Ebola outbreak, a mudslide around the capital city, Freetown, has claimed more than 600,000 lives. There has been a new social government elected which is still in its first 100 days in government. At the end of the meeting, Conor and Kayode extended thanks to CAFOD volunteers and supporters in Middlesbrough on behalf of their respective communities.
Bishop Drainey thanked Conor and Kayode for their visit and said there is need to raise awareness and widen people’s perspectives about the realities of life in other countries”.
Parishioners from St Therésè of Lisieux church set out in glorious sunshine for their Share the Journey walk to Preston Park on Sunday 1st of July 2018 They shared stories of journey’s they had made as they walked along and reflected on stories of migrants and refugees. It was a great opportunity for them to talk and get to know each other a little more, building community links as well as walking in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from around the world. There is still time to organise a walk in your parish over the summer, you can find all you need to organise one here