Presbyterians are among those deeply concerned by human rights conditions in Colombia and throughout the world. You may recall the dedicated efforts to halt the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, which eventually was approved by the U.S. Congress. In conjunction with the Summit of the Americas this weekend, President Obama announced that Colombia has met the labor rights conditions associated with the FTA and that the agreement will take effect next month on May 15.
This is sad news, considering the ongoing killing of union leaders and land rights activists in Colombia. PC(USA) Stated Clerk Rev. Gradye Parsons wrote to President Obama prior to the Summit to urge a strong stance in favor of real respect for human rights in Colombia and an end to impunity. If you would like to speak out, the Latin America Working Group has a tool to help you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
CEDERHNOS in Colombia (the Center for the Study and Development of Human Rights) invites Christians around the world to sign their petition to President Santos, calling for him to take leadership for a negotiated end to the violence in Colombia and reparations for the victims. The petition is in Spanish, and invites those interested to sign with their name, the organization they represent, and their home country.
Lisa Haugaard, LAWG’s executive director, issued a call to leaders attending the Summit to protect human rights defenders.
The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship shared information on the groups across the U.S. organizing for the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia, and actions planned for the People’s Summit in Cartagena. Schools, churches, and others across Colombia also participated with concrete actions affirming that everyone deserves a place to call home.
If you’ve been wondering what the big deal is about land issues in Colombia, the Fellowship of Reconciliation has put together a helpful booklet to illustrate the importance of land to all of us and the issues surrounding the problems in Colombia. You can order printed copies or download the digital file here.
Over 8,000 people from across the Americas participated in the fifth Summit of the Peoples last weekend to raise an alternative voice and do strategic work together. After high hopes raised by President Obama’s words at the last Summit of the Americas shortly after his inauguration, there was a renewed sense of frustration about U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and a lack of effective solidarity. The official Cumbre de los Pueblos website (in Spanish) has a number of videos and press releases published throughout the event. It also includes the formal declaration issued by the summit, which decries the growth of militarization and free market economics in the region and the continued threats of extractive industries and agrobusiness to the self-determination of indigenous communities and small farmers. Ecumenical leaders will continue to offer ways we can stand and speak together as churches in the process of building peace in the Americas.