AMERICA/COLOMBIA – The Bishops of the Pacific and the south-western region: “It is time for significant changes, in justice and reconciliation”

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Bogota – The situation of the population of African origin, indigenous and mestizo living in the territories of the Pacific and south-western Colombia, continues to worry the Pastors of the Church present in these territories. Once again the Bishops, who have raised their voices several times in the past on the dramatic difficulties of these people who see their fundamental rights trampled on return to ask for the attention of rulers and institutions in a video message sent to Fides. The ecclesiastical jurisdictions present in this area of Colombia are Cali, Popayan, Apartadó, Quibdó, Itsmina – Tadó, Mocoa – Sibundoy, Buenaventura, Tumaco, Pasto, Ipiales, Cartago, Buga, Palmira, Guapi and Tierradentro. Monsignor Juan Carlos Cárdenas Toro, Bishop of Pasto, believes that social protest, guaranteed by the Constitution, is an inalienable and laudable right, which must be exercised with full responsibility and must be based on honest values and noble ideals, such as the respect for life, dignity and the common good.
The legitimacy of the protest is compromised when violence becomes the protagonist, therefore he argues that “it is necessary that the authorities, organizers and participants ensure that the demonstrations are peaceful, preventing some from distorting what others want to build”.
The Bishop of Buga, Monsignor José Roberto Ospina Leóngomez, encourages young people to dream of a better future and to be protagonists in building a country full of hope: “be creative, dream of a just country, in peace, in which you have job opportunities. Make your dreams come true, be aware that dialogue is the fundamental way to listen and express yourselves. Help us build this country where we are not alone, but where God is among us”.
He addressed the farmers, highlighting the commendable work they do in the countryside and the contribution they make to the food chain of the whole country, Monsignor Jose Saul Grisales Grisales, Bishop of Ipiales. “Let’s defend our farmers!”, he urged the Bishop, who asked responsible bodies and the community in general to create fair public policies, without any form of exploitation, so that the work of farmers is recognized and remunerated adequately.
Colombia is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with very high poverty, underlined Monsignor Juan Carlos Barreto Barreto, Bishop of Quibdó, who welcomed the presence of young people in the streets, to express their dissatisfaction and demand the respect for rights. “The time has come for significant changes in Colombia and we must make these changes through reconciliation”, he said.
“It is very important to have the ability to forgive and also to ask for forgiveness. Let’s build change in the country through social justice and reconciliation”. In the context of the current health emergency in the department of Chocó, Monsignor Barreto had adopted in recent days some preventive measures for the diocese of Quibdó. From Monday June 21 to Sunday July 4, all parish churches in the diocesan territory are closed; priests should avoid holding meetings and visiting rural communities; in the city of Quibdó, funeral celebrations will be held only in the Cathedral of San Francisco de Asís, it is forbidden to smoke in the houses or in the streets. By communicating these provisions, Monsignor Barreto expressed concern about the high percentage of Covid-19 infections: “We have discovered that cases are becoming more frequent and prevention and assistance activities are scarce”. The latest measures adopted at the institutional level can lead to worsening the difficult health and mortality situation, while a part of the population does not follow the indications, such as avoiding gatherings, family celebrations … “The Diocese of Quibdó renews its choice for life and invites individuals and institutions to become more resolute in the protection of all lives”.