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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Colombian peacemaker appeals for help to British Government
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 A key figure in Colombia's search for peace is coming to London next week to ask the British Government for help in resolving his country's 38 year old conflict. Monseigner Héctor Fabio Henao Gaviria will have several meetings with the Foreign and Commonwealth office, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and MPs and British agencies working in Colombia. He is expected to ask for the British Government to voice its support for the resumption of peace talks with the left wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and for measures to be taken to protect the civilian population. Initial talks with FARC broke down in February but tentative negotiations with the country's second largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) are continuing. Monseigner Gaviria needs both arms of the conflict if he is to continue negotiating for a peaceful solution to a bitter conflict which has claimed almost 35,000 lives in the past ten years. Monseigner Gaviria, director of the Social Department of the Colombian Catholic Church, runs a network throughout his home country that works towards peace and reconciliation, the defence of human rights and the provision of assistance to victims. He has witnessed the deaths of many from the church during a conflict which has grown increasingly bitter. On March 16 Monseigner Isaías Duarte, Archbishop of Cali was murdered as he left church. Less than a month later Father Juan Ramón Núñez was killed while distributing communion during a mass. More recently over 100 people who had taken refuge in a church in Bojayá, in the western district of Chocó, died when a FARC missile hit landed on the building. Colombia's gulf between rich and poor has provided a fertile breeding ground for left wing guerrilla groups such as FARC and ELN and the country's cycle of violence is exacerbated by the presence of right wing militia, often linked to the production and smuggling of drugs.
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