Accompaniment program launched in Colombia

October 18, 2011

An ecumenical accompaniment program has been launched to assist
victims of violence in Colombia, where internal armed conflict has
driven nearly 5 million people away from their land and property,
according to the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI).

"The
churches have been asked to break the silence and communicate all the
atrocities taking place in Colombia," Carlos E. Ham, program executive
for Diakonia and Latin America-Caribbean with the Geneva-based World
Council of Churches, said in an interview October 18.

In December
2009, Colombia's attorney general reported 2,520 cases of forced
disappearances of people, out of a total of 35,665 crimes confessed by
paramilitary forces. A reported 2,388 burial pits were found in the
country and 2,091 bodies exhumed, the report said.

Ecumenical
accompaniers participate in the life of communities and work with local
organizations that carry out nonviolent actions to promote and defend
justice and contribute to the protection and implementation of human
rights. After volunteering in local communities, accompaniers return to
their own communities to educate others about the crisis and advocate
for an end to the violence.

The Latin American Council of Churches
inspired the new initiative, which has "a strong ecumenical embrace
with the involvement of many churches," said Ham, who took part in the
launch meeting October 6–8 in Bogotá, Colom­bia. The meeting was
attended by representatives from the Lutheran World Federation, ACT
Alliance, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, CLAI and other
groups.

Participants in the meeting named Chris Ferguson, a United
Church of Canada minister, as international coordinator. Ferguson was a
cofounder of a similar international monitoring program in Israel and
Palestinian areas.

Over the next year, places that are of acute
interest to member churches will be identified and a more focused effort
at accompanying the process in those places will develop, said Jim
Hodgson, who represented the Canadian human rights organization Kairos
at the meeting.

The WCC's Ham said the idea is to select people
from the Global North and the Global South "to spend three to six months
living in communities in rural areas" where people have been
threatened, killed or disappeared. —ENInews

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