As the peace accords and the other negotiations in Colombia have advanced, there have been many people in favor of the steps forward and also people who feel like not enough has been done to forge a lasting peace. There are also people who have felt betrayed that injustices have occurred and true justice has not been served. Throughout this entire process, there has been violence along the Colombian-Ecuadorian border. It has been a place where gangs, drug lords, and defectors from various rebel groups have been able to, it would seem, do as they please. There have been tense times between the two countries, particularly because of the involvement and happenings initiated by many of these armed groups, especially since most (but not all) of them have been Colombians.
Over the last several months, violence has increased in the area, especially along the coast, and in particular violence against civilians. This all came to a head a few weeks ago when three Ecuadorian journalists, who had gone to the area to investigate and report on the increased violence, were kidnapped by a narco group that split off from the FARC led by an Ecuadorian known as El Gaucho.
On Friday, the 13th of April, the Ecuadorian government stated that they had no way to prove that the kidnapped journalists were still alive, and announced that they would start new coordinated military and police interventions in the area together with the Colombian Armed Forces.
In response to this the three Ecuadorian Mennonite conferences have produced the following (translated from Spanish) statement in favor of peace:
PRONUNCIATION OF THE MENNONITE CHURCH IN ECUADOR
Read more from Delicia and Peter at their blog.
In view of the acts of violence that occurred in Ecuador on the northern border with Colombia, the Mennonite Church in Ecudor - whose mission is "to pray and work to promote justice and build peace inspired by the life of Jesus," and which as worked for over 30 years in favor of the most disadvantaged people - sympathise with the relatives and friends of the victims. We ask that God comfort them and give peace to all who have suffered these losses. And in the midst of the pain that they are experiencing right now, feel that the best way we have to honor their life and their memory is to work for a more humane world, one that respects life and values peace and justice as precious goods, so that these cruel acts are not repeated in our country and in the world.
As a Mennonite Church, heirs of an Anabaptist theology, which promotes nonviolence, peace, reconciliation and justice:
We strongly reject any form of institutional violence, wherever it comes from, that wants to destabilize the harmonious and peaceful coexistence that has existed in our country, and for which, we must unite as brothers that want a country in peace, that is inclusive, welcoming, free of violence, united in solidarity and without discrimination. We believe that one of the fundamental riches that Ecuador has is its people, its culture, its liberating history and its ability to promote constructive dialogue that sees the other as a brother or sister, never as an enemy.
We know that the causes of violence, injustice, poverty and ignorance are structural and are the product of inadequate economic and social policies. They are instead based on profit and markets, where the human being is a commodity and an object. Social polarization, poverty and, social inequalities, affect people and are directly related to the deep roots of violence. Therefore, as long as the conditions that promote social injustice, environmental deterioration and the deprivation of possibilities of a dignified life subsist, structural violence will be justified. Building peace is also reducing poverty.
In this sense:
We call to respect life as a gift from God.
We call to unite in prayer that resists violence.We call all churches to open their doors, activate solidarity and welcome the most needy and oppressed brothers and sisters.
We call on political leaders to promote fair laws that benefit everyone.We call to build communities of peace and reconciliation and not only individuals guided by their own interests.
We call to not let ourselves be dominated by the fear that paralyzes us and cowards us and to instead continue fighting for a permanent and lasting peace.
We call to reject violence, discrimination and hatred.
We call to be vigilant of peace and the right to life always and with all people.
We call the Media and Social Networks to handle the information with truth, respect, prudence and restraint.
We call on the Public Force and all armed groups and those who are oriented to violence to assume an active role in preserving peace, within the framework of the broadest respect for the human rights of all involved. And through this framework to seek new ways to solve conflicts that do not pose any threat against the life of the communities that live in those areas. We are convinced that weapons and wars do not bring peace, on the contrary, they multiply violence.
We call on everyone to respect life, nature, and to unite, from solidarity, from social commitment, from faith, so that Ecuador continues to be a country of peace and security.
"But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:44
President of Iglesia Cristiana Anabautista Menonita del Ecuador (ICAME)
Pastor Carlos Acosta
President of the Iglesia Menonita del Ecuador (IME)
Pastor Egdy Zambrano
President of the Council of the Iglesia Evangélica del Ecuador (IEME)