Bewildered hope

“…and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

On Sunday I went to church in Bogotá, where we prayed for peace and the mood was expectantly joyful. I watched people go to the polls in the morning rain, and then in the afternoon sunshine. I read news about how the rains from Hurricane Michael’s tail had delayed delivery of voting materials in several places and likely kept people away from the polls. I prayed and hoped.

When the results began to come in, I was shocked at how close the vote was, but at that point the “Sí” was carrying the fragile lead. Polls in the days before the vote had suggested a solid victory for the peace accords. But in the end, the final tally was a nearly perfect split: 50.21% no, 49.78% yes, separated by fewer then 54,000 votes.

I had not given serious thought to the notion that the plebiscite could fail. As the “no” vote took the lead, I scoured news coverage in disbelief. Messages shared on social media by religious leaders who had campaigned for the “yes” vote moved from grief to a recommitment to keep promoting peace and reconciliation in Colombia. And I found myself, while still bewildered, buoyed by hope once again.

With such a narrow margin, such a marked division of views, for the accords to be approved would have left a significant segment of Colombian society with resentment and little disposition to cooperate with the process down the line. Now that the breach between different views of how to achieve peace has been brought to the forefront, an opportunity arises for important work to be done.

“How did this happen?”
“Why would anyone vote against peace?”

These are good questions.

The results of Sunday’s vote demonstrate that in areas that have suffered most, support for the accords was clear. But strong opposition in the more highly populated “interior” of the country, especially in the city of Medellín, was enough to tip the scales. (The webpage of Colombia’s Registraduría has interactive maps of election results and voter turnout.)

I, like the leadership of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, have fully and actively supported the accords as a solid path forward toward peace. The majority of those who voted “no” on Sunday also want an end to the armed conflict, but they were persuaded by criticism of the accords.

Some are convinced that harsher penalties and prison sentences should be faced by FARC ex-combatants, or that their political participation should be restricted. Others have been swayed by campaigns of misinformation. The accords recognize a list of different populations that have been victims of the armed conflict, including indigenous communities, women, and LGBTQ people, and affirm that they should be included in restitution processes.  Numerous evangelical pastors and churches rallied against the accords, conflating the provision with other recent sociopolitical debates regarding LGBTQ rights in Colombia.

What all this means is still unclear. Both President Santos and FARC guerrilla leadership have made a public commitment to continue the ceasefire and seek a lasting peace. As I write, President Santos and Senator Uribe are meeting, with other political leaders from each side of the vote, to seek common ground and look for possible steps forward that both can support. For details on the events and possible scenarios, see the news coverage and analysis links provided below.

Questions and uncertainties abound, but the call to continue seeking peace and reconciliation remains unchanged. We always knew that we were embarking on a new and challenging path, it’s just under somewhat different circumstances than we’d envisioned.

Please continue to support the work of peace in Colombia. Pray. Volunteer as an accompanier or a Young Adult Volunteer. Donate to support the IPC’s service work in the North Coast or in Urabá, or my work. Educate. Make sure you vote, wherever you are eligible. God is still working, in us and through us.

Further reading
Analysis by Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America
More interesting English language news coverage and commentary: The GuardianThe Nation, The NY Times 
Official maps and vote details from Colombia’s Registraduría

About Sarah

I serve with Presbyterian World Mission as liaison to the Andean region. This blog is a place to share stories, experiences, and observations, both my own and those of friends and colleagues and the occasional item of news.
This entry was posted in Colombia, Musings, Prayer and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bewildered hope

  1. Betty Kersting says:

    Sarah we in Santa Fe have watched this closely. We are saddened and share our concern for the time ahead, but your statement of hope and faith is a true testimony to God’s presence with us.
    Betty Kersting

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