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An Historic Opportunity for Peace in Colombia

Baha'i World News Service | Oct 11, 2016

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Baha'i World News Service | Oct 11, 2016

Be thou a summoner to love, and be thou kind to all the human race. Love thou the children of men and share in their sorrows. Be thou of those who foster peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 26.

The Baha’i community of Colombia has released an open letter appealing to all Colombians to seize an “historic opportunity” and work for the cause of peace. The letter comes in advance of the signing of a peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) on 26 September.

The agreement is a major milestone on the path to peace in Colombia, which has suffered more than fifty years of violence in the world’s longest continuous armed conflict.

The Baha’i community’s letter celebrates the achievements of the peace negotiations, while acknowledging that the hard work of building a just and harmonious society lies ahead. The statement, titled “Peace, Beyond a Political Agreement,” represents a recognition of the opportunity now available to Colombians to forge new patterns of interaction and habits of thought.

Over decades, the Colombian Baha’i community has promoted a culture of peaceful and purposeful existence in many regions of the country through educational processes that seek to empower children, youth, and adults to elevate the well-being and unity of their communities.

Classes for the moral and intellectual development of youth have been a feature of the Baha’i community’s contribution to well-being and peace in Colombian society.

Classes for the moral and intellectual development of youth have been a feature of the Baha’i community’s contribution to well-being and peace in Colombian society.

“We have seen that small, voluntary acts of service can produce profound and lasting changes in families, children, and their neighborhoods,” explained Ximena Osorio, a representative of the Colombian Baha’i community. “Each individual has the potential to become an active agent of social change and contribute to building a peaceful society.”

The open letter also presents a caution:

Our peace is, in a word, fragile. It demands a level of integrity to rise above polarized debate, to revert to higher principles to which all societies aspire, to that common ground that is the foundation of consensus. But beyond words, participation may perhaps find its most powerful expression in deeds—in the flowering of countless acts of voluntary service across the country that imbue our society with a new spirit of hope for the future of Colombia.

The letter from the Colombian Baha’i community concludes by discussing the primary twin concerns of forgiveness and justice after such a long war:

The very issue of truth is challenging, but one that needs to be confronted with courage and confidence in the outcome. It has been the foundation of efforts at societal reconciliation elsewhere in the world, and it should be at the core of the Colombian experience as well. Placing victims at the centre of peace talks – through whom the pain of conflict and its causes are inscribed on our consciousness – is a promising step in this direction. Yet the search for truth should be undertaken with the awareness that it needs to be accompanied by forgiveness. Calls for forgiveness are legitimate and necessary, but forgiveness requires honesty about what is being pardoned. Evils that have not been confronted may well corrode the process and subvert the good intentions of the majority. We should find the strength to recognize faults and forgive, and by that, invest in the hope that future generations of Colombians will not repeat the horrific experience of internal armed conflict.

Coupled with forgiveness, the Colombian Baha’is clearly state, justice must prevail:

Of course, this discussion would be incomplete if it did not address the question of justice. Beyond the philosophical and technical debates on this question, is a principle to which we all aspire. In a sense, far from encouraging the punitive spirit that has often masqueraded under its name, justice is the practical expression of awareness that, in the achievement of human progress, the interests of the individual and those of society are inextricably linked. Justice implies that, on the one hand, all Colombians benefit from the fruits of this prosperous society; and on the other, that they are able to participate in the shaping of its future.

The landmark letter closes by calling on all Colombians to create a peace that will inspire all humanity:

This moment in the history of Colombia represents a call to all Colombians, men, women and children, of every social stratum and ethnicity. As we celebrate the arrival of peace to our country in the form of an accord between parties to a long-lasting armed conflict, let us commit ourselves to ensuring that an historic opportunity does not fritter away, that risks inherent in the transition are dispelled through mutual trust, so that this may be a rebirth of our Colombian nation. We offer prayers that “in furrows of pain, the good shall grow”. May future generations of Colombians look upon this current generation with a grateful sense that we did seize the moment and made sure that they would not suffer as we and generations before us have. The eyes of the world are on Colombia. May we arise to provide a model that will inspire and edify the hearts of our fellow human beings across the planet.

To read the entire letter online, in both Spanish and English:

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