.- Bishop Fabian Marulanda of Florencia and Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia praised the decision by President Alvaro Uribe to seek the creation of an international commission to facilitate humanitarian negotiations with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Speaking on Caracol Radio, the bishop said the government should make every effort to secure the liberation of policemen, soldiers, politicians and civilians who have been kidnapped—including some who have spent more than seven years in captivity—and that this initiative should not be seen as “an excess of kindness on the part of the government.”
On the other hand, referring to the rebel group known as the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, said the Church “is ready during peacetime or during an emergency” to support the search for reconciliation in Colombia and would support any eventual dialogue between the ELN and the government.
Regarding the proposal by the ELN to hold an “formal exploratory meeting” with President Uribe, Cardinal Castrillon said the most important thing is for there to be “honesty in the proposals and that both parties are aware of the chance to see the harm that armed conflict causes,” because in Colombia, dialogue “cannot be independent of the warlike reality we have experienced during the last 60 years.”
The Bishops’ Conference also announced that, as in previous years, the Church would make its traditional appeal for a Christmas truce between all sides of the conflict.