Bishops and European mediators meet to push for release of hostages in Colombia


The ambassadors of Spain, France and Switzerland to Colombia met this Wednesday with a group of bishops participating in the Ordinary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia in order to study ways of achieving the release of hostages being held by the FARC.

The participants did not disclose the details of the meeting, but the archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, praised the willingness of the ambassadors, “who are always willing to collaborate in a special way with everything that would advance a peace agreement, a pacification of the country.”

This was the first meeting between the European delegates and the Church after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe reactivated mediation efforts by Spain, France and Switzerland for a humanitarian agreement on January 19.

Bishop Fabian Marulanda, general secretary of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, said the Church hopes to meet soon with representatives of the FARC in order to set up a meeting between the Marxist group and the government to nail down terms for an agreement.

“We hope to find some points of agreement, first in order to define the place where a meeting will take place, and secondly to define the conditions, if they are going to hand over (the hostages) all at once or in parts, and in exchange for which prisoners,” the bishop said.

The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia has proposed establishing a meeting zone of 150 square kilometers, which President Uribe accepted in December, in order to negotiate the fate of hostages being held by the rebel group.

Up to now, the FARC’s position has been that of freeing 43 hostages for nearly 500 imprisoned terrorists, as well as demanding the demilitarization of 800 square kilometers near Cali, the third largest city in Colombia.