(Crux) One way of framing Pope Francis’s peace-building visit to Colombia is that he is there not to build the consensus for a controversial peace agreement, so much as to teach people how to live in peace.
That’s a much harder, long-term task, especially in the wake of a decades-long conflict where deep-seated grievances fester long after the bodies have been buried and the guns fall silent.
That peace has been agreed: FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has handed over its weapons, and the ELN (the National Liberation Army) has consented to do so. But its terms remain controversial: turnout for a referendum last year – which failed to deliver a “yes” to the accord – was less than 40 per cent. It only survived at all because the ceasefire held while a new patched-up accord limped through Colombia’s fractured legislature, pleasing almost no one.
But that’s politics, which is always a cauldron of clashing interests and views. The question for Colombia is how the disagreements over the accord will play out, whether they will be contained and produce fruit, or whether they will splinter and polarize. And if the second: whether, in a society already accustomed to violence, that means reaching again for the weapons.
When I spoke last year to Bogotá’s cardinal archbishop, Rubén Salazar, on the eve of that plebiscite on the peace accord, it was clear why he wanted Pope Francis to come. [More]