Colombian bishop says dialogue rather than military force will resolve conflict


The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Ruben Salazar, said this week that military force has never been the way to solve conflicts in the world and that Colombia should instead take the path of political dialogue.

"We are convinced that this conflict will not be solved by force. These kinds of disputes are never resolved by the military," especially "in Colombia, where drug trafficking is present, which makes the tension unending," the archbishop told the Colombian daily El Tiempo.

He went on to point out that conditions in the country are different and therefore dialogue with the guerrillas is not doomed to fail. "The conditions have changed, and specifically the success of President Uribe’s democratic security effort has made conditions change. Dialogue can take place now, without abandoning the policy of democratic security," the archbishop said.

He acknowledged that currently "there is no chance" that the government and guerrilla forces will sit down for talks "because their positions are completely polarized." "One of the objectives we are seeking is precisely this: to create an environment for dialogue within Colombian society," Archbishop Salazar stated.

Regarding the humanitarian accord to free hostages, the archbishop said it would be a first step that must be "put into the context of a general solution to the conflict." "We must achieve an agreement that is not only a solution for the problem of the hostages, but rather is a solution for the entire armed conflict," he added.

"The country has learned that the guerrillas need to be kept on a tight rein, but there must also be dialogue with them. This is precisely what we are seeking: that the guerillas be forced to dialogue because they have no military future."

Archbishop Salazar stressed that the Church seeks to work for reconciliation and forgiveness. "The Church cannot remain marginalized in the establishing of peace for the country," he said.

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