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Thursday, February 23, 2017
Colombia crisis back on political agenda following MP visit
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┬áThe forgotten humanitarian crisis in Colombia will be back on the political agenda as politicians from around Europe back an international drive by the Catholic Church to bring peace to the country. Leeds West MP John Battle was among a delegation of parliamentarians and Catholic aid agency leaders from ten European countries who recently visited the country. Mr Battle said: "I heard from people who had lost friends and family members to drug traffickers and to far right paramilitaries and their guerrilla opponents. I heard about the huge numbers of local leaders killed and intimidated. Often the only ones daring to stay and stand up to the armed groups are church leaders, who also regularly face violent threats. "I'm looking forward to talking to CAFOD and to our Government to see what more can be done - how we can bring people together to create an outcry that brings change." He travelled to Colombia with CAFOD's head of Latin America Clare Dixon. The Catholic agency is one of the leaders of a three-year campaign, launched by Caritas Internationalis, that seeks to highlight the plight of those affected by the conflict and push for a negotiated solution and justice for the victims. Clare Dixon said: "The visit was very successful in enabling parliamentarians to see for themselves the effects of the conflict on the poor, the poverty and inequality that exists in Colombia and how this further fuels the conflict. "The delegates will now take their experiences back to their governments and churches and push this crisis on to the public agenda. Colombia is the third largest humanitarian crisis after the Tsunami affected countries and Sudan. It is vital we in Europe encourage and support the Colombian Catholic Church in their efforts to bring peace and justice." Colombia is one of the most violent countries in the world. More than three million people have been displaced following decades of civil war. There are on average 30,000 murders a year. Communities all over Colombia are violently suppressed by guerrillas and paramilitaries who fight each other for territorial control over land. The delegation had meetings with president Alvaro Uribe VelÚz and other senior government and United Nations representatives. They also visited some of the communities most affected by the conflict in the rural areas as well as in the suburbs and shanty towns around Bogata.
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