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Friday, February 24, 2017
Archbishop rallies support for peace in Colombia
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 Hundreds of people ­ from school pupils to MEPs - have pledged their support for a campaign for peace and justice in Colombia after an Archbishop from the conflict-torn South American country visited England and Wales. More than three million people ­ roughly equivalent to the population of Wales - have been forced to flee their homes by guerrilla groups and paramilitaries and many now live in poverty in shanty-towns on the outskirts of cities. Archbishop Rubén Salazar told school pupils, university students and parishioners what life is like for Colombians during a series of talks last week. He also met MEPs and concelebrated Mass at St David's Cathedral in Cardiff with Archbishop Peter Smith during his seven-day visit to England and Wales. The 65-year-old explained how the Colombian conflict ­ which has raged for 40 years - has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and urged people to sign a petition calling on the Colombian government to give survivors of the conflict the support they need. The Archbishop also encouraged people to sign a giant Welsh flag to show their support for the Colombian people, which he will present to a major reconciliation conference in Bogotá in August. Among those who joined the campaign for peace were Archbishop Peter Smith from the Diocese of Cardiff, Conservative MEP Jonathan Evans, Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans and Year 12 pupils from Joseph's RC High School in Newport. Jonathan Evans said: "I think that this visit has been crucial in raising the profile of the current situation in Colombia. We have certainly found it immensely valuable, having the opportunity of discussing things in detail with the Archbishop - who has an outstanding reputation for his work in this area." Jill Evans said: "People in Wales are deeply concerned with fighting injustice. Making links between our countries will help increase understanding and will put influence on governments at all levels to bring the suffering and injustice to an end." Rubén Salazar is Archbishop of Baranquilla, Colombia's fourth largest city. He is currently leading the Colombian Church's campaign for a negotiated peace in the country and has been outspoken in denouncing poverty as one of the root causes of the conflict. He leads the Colombian Church's work in some of its most sensitive areas; humanitarian relief, the defence of human rights and peace education. The Archbishop said: "We need a real change in our society. We cannot live in conflict anymore." During his visit to London, the Archbishop concelebrated Mass in Stamford Hill. He was joined on this leg of his tour by Monsignor Héctor Fabio, director of the Social Department of the Colombian Bishops' Conference, one of CAFOD's main partners in Colombia. Monsignor Héctor Fabio concelebrated Mass in Brixton and attended a meeting at the Foreign Office during his stay. Barbara Davies, CAFOD's Programme Support Officer for Colombia and Peru, said: "We hope the Archbishop's visit has helped people understand what day-to-day life is like for those living in the South American country and will encourage them to support the campaign for peace. "When most people think of Colombia they think of kidnapping and drugs but there is another side to the country - the people I have met have been so inspiring, often putting their lives at risk to help others affected by the conflict. The least we can do is stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them and offer support."
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