Church bells across Colombia rang out on Tuesday in a move of solidarity with the thousands of victims of violence that has plagued the country for decades.
“This was a humanitarian gesture of closeness...with the victims of the violence in Colombia, that their suffering not be minimized or ignored and that their right to the truth, to justice and to reparations be protected,” Father Pedro Mercado Cepeda, adjunct secretary of the local bishops' conference, told CNA.
The tolling of the bells came as 200,000 Colombians took part in a massive peace rally in the capital city of Bogota on April 9.
Colombia's bishops warned in February that violent actions by a prominent rebel group are undermining peace negotiations in the country.
The Marxist group FARC – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – “is destroying the hopes for achieving reconciliation” with its recent acts of violence and kidnapping, said Bishop Hector Gutierrez Pabon.
Three police officers died on Feb. 1 when they were attacked by a FARC contingent in northern Colombia. The rebel group also kidnapped two other police officers and three petroleum contractors in a one-week period. The hostages were all freed later by the Colombian military.
In statements Tuesday, Bishop Jose Daniel Falla – secretary general of the bishops’ conference – told reporters that the Church does not support on sector of society over another, but instead raises her voice to defend those suffering from violence.