Sept. 25, 2003: Destaque Internacional, Buenos Aires

The Colombian Episcopate and "Dialogue" with Guerrillas: A Solution or a Move Backwards?

We call your attention to the insistence of high-ranking Colombian churchmen on "dialogue" with the cruel drug guerrillas of Castroite inspiration, as the only option to resolve the conflict in Colombia.

Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, who simultaneously is president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia (CEC) and of the Latin-American Episcopal Council (CELAM), has just urged the guerrilla groups to begin a "civilized dialogue" and encouraged the government of President Uribe to "extend a hand to the insurgency." A short time before, the final document of the annual summit of the CEC had also insisted on dialogue as "the only alternative" to the armed conflict in Colombia.

It is fitting to note that this episcopal insistence is given at a moment when the Communist drug guerrillas are on the defensive, suffering serious military reverses and facing a growing condemnation on the part of public opinion. Bishop Luis Augusto Castro himself, the bishop of Tunja and member of the Commission of Conciliation, recognized the "isolation" in which the guerrillas find themselves and the "urgent" need "to recover the national and international terrain" they have lost, in order to survive.

If the Communist guerrillas are in such an unfavorable position - due to the firmness shown up to now by the Colombian government, which has done nothing other than comply with its obligation and interpret the profound desires of the majority of the population - it is to be asked if the pledge of the episcopate to "dialogue" at all costs will not contribute to giving political-military oxygen to the guerrillas, who would be able to take advantage of the decrease of the military conflict to regroup and rearm themselves. If this were to occur, independently of the intentions of the high-level promoters of dialogue, Colombia and the world would be able to witness the sad role of the Shepherds going to the aid of the red wolves, contradicting the aspirations and the sacred interests of their very own flock. The opposite of constituting a solution, the "dialogue" promoted by the Episcopate would thus be able to contribute to a political and psychological move backward on the part of that important South American nation, prolonging the climate of civil war that corrodes it.

In the center of this whole question the word "dialogue" seems to be found, and the "talismanic" use that so often has been given to it, throughout the twentieth century and in what has passed of the twenty-first century, to demobilize those who defend the principles of the Christian civilization, with obvious benefit for the left.

Dialogue is a conversation, generally among friends; and we cannot forget that it is different from an argument, a polemic or a controversy - that which is proper to those who have contrary or antagonistic positions.

In the case of Colombia, a frank "dialogue" would assume, among other fundamental requirements, the sincerity and good faith of the participants. We do not doubt that the members of the Colombian Episcopate possess it, they who propose that dialogue with so much determination.

But how can one assume that the Colombian guerrillas have sincerity and good faith, they who count in their sad record the cruel murder of the bishop of Arauca, His Excellency Emilio Jesús Jaramillo and, as strong evidence indicates, also of the archbishop of Cali, His Excellency Isaías Duarte Cancino, as well as the murders of various priests and numerous members of the faithful?

We present these respectful doubts and questions with a sincere spirit of collaboration, on behalf of the Christian prosperity of the beloved Colombian nation, our South American sister.

Postscript: Together with the murder of high-ranking prelates and of so many innocent persons, few facts show the cruelty of the drug guerrillas as does an event that occurred last Holy Week. The little boy Irwin Orlando Ropero, ten years old, was deceived by members of FARC who brought him a bicycle bomb, and sent him on it to a military squad at the entrance of the municipality of Fortul (province of Arauca), where they detonated it by remote control together with the boy itself.

"To use a boy so that he himself and many other persons die or become injured, is an abominable crime, is a crime that cries to heaven. They who perpetrated it, who organized that bicycle bomb and obliged and intimidated the boy to take it, have the sign of Caín, are cursed," Cardinal Rubiano exclaimed.

The members of FARC, not content with that crime, camouflaged themselves in the procession of Good Friday in the municipality of Dolores (province of Tolima), and killed three people - including a youth of 14 years of age - with the intent of murdering the mayor, Mercedes Ibarra.