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Grace Initiative co-develops and sponsors side event at the UN on Reconciliation and Peace in Colombia

You are cordially invited to attend an event following up on Pope Francis’ September visit to Colombia that the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN is sponsoring with the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the UN, Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic
Peacebuilding Network, the Krok Institute for International Peace Studies and Grace Initiative.

Below please find a poster with a list of speakers as well as a concept note with the background.


Event on
Reconciliation and Peace in Colombia:
The Impact of the Visit of Pope Francis

UN Headquarters Conference Room 12
1500-1700 • 20 October 2017

From September 5-11, 2017, Pope Francis visited Colombia, delivering messages and­­ prayers for national reconciliation and for a sustainable peace in Colombia.  The Pope’s visit — which included Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena — sought to reinforce the Final Peace Accord and to heal the wounds of the past, transcending the distrust and divisions generated by the unfortunate 52-year civil war.
With the signing of the Final Peace Accord between the Colombia Government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in November 2016,[1] one of the world’s longest-running armed conflicts came to an end. Included in this Peace Accord was the responsibility to reintegrate thousands of former guerrilla fighters and foster national reconciliation.[2]  The Accord embraces all sectors of society so that the country can “achieve a just and lasting peace for all Colombians.”[3] In view of the magnitude of commitment required, the Pope aimed to reinforce the ongoing peace process.
As a member of the Latin American community with a global heart and a desire to accompany those who suffer, struggle and seek sustainable solutions for a life of real social development, Pope Francis has long been concerned with the needs and rights of the people of Colombia and sought to bring this care and concrete recommendations to the country last month — to the government, the Church, victims and violators, farmers and families. His solidarity of encounter did not at all mean he was intending to come with "answers" but rather with absolute respect for the simple and profound questions, asked so often through the decades — and now even more urgently in these recent days — by women, men, children, youth, wise elders.
The purpose of the Pope's visit, as of this UN Side Event, was not to pass judgment but rather to focus on reconciliation and authentic restoration of right relationships at every level of society — and especially in those remote places or circumstances where indigenous peoples could too easily be neglected, further violated further, or even feared for the depth of their understandable anguish. Indeed, he came to Colombia to state boldly, clearly that the life of every person matters, that every path to peace must be walked carefully and respectfully by all stakeholders, while noting that the task is daunting, perhaps dangerous, and indeed delicate as politics, processes and policies are unfolding.
The Pope's visit underscored that a focus on and shared responsibility for people first and always must be the method to ensure that there be human, integrated implementation of the Peace Accord, one that cares for the people, the land, the culture, and the next generation as one family enjoying a fruitful and safe common home. As part of his appeal in Colombia, the Pope Francis called for prayers for the 6,000 victims of violence and the millions displaced. He also called for a peace that also protects the environment as well as prayed for the end of human trafficking and all forms of modern day slavery and emphasized the universality of respect for human dignity. Indeed, with the arduous process of healing, with ongoing difficult negotiations, intense legitimate investigations, the need for justice, tolerance, patience, one of the most important concrete impacts from Pope Francis’ visit may to be remind everyone that “together we accomplish more for each other.”
While the country has achieved fundamental components of the Accord, challenges and obstacles to securing sustainable peace remain. Even with the FARC disarmed, critical elements of the Accord must make further progress for political, economic and social cohesion, such as an inclusive reintegration (reincorporation) of the ex-combatants; securing human rights and transitional justice; promoting economic development, especially in rural areas; and ensuring national security in the countryside, particularly in the zones of former guerrilla influence. Along with Colombia’s internal challenges, the increase in refugees from Venezuela has caused further strains. There is also the need for peaceful eradication of 188,000 hectares of coca production through adequate compensation and crop alternatives at a time when, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Colombia is now producing more cocaine than ever before.
International support is necessary to ensure that the goals of the Peace Accords advance stably, sustainably, legally, and holistically. Civil society, international organizations and the private sector similarly are urged to more engaged to help ensure that peace in Colombia is an irreversible process.
This Side Event will be able to focus on the progress made and the many challenges that remain.

Structure of the Event
The panel event will feature those with experience on the ground in helping to achieve the Peace Accords and implement them. The following are confirmed speakers:

  • Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN

  • H.E. María Emma Mejía Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN

  • Msgr. Héctor Fabio Henao, Director of Caritas Colombiana and of the National Secretariat of Pastoral and Social Outreach for the Episcopal Conference of Colombia

  • Professor Gerard Powers, Coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, Director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

  • Mr. Joseph Cornelius Donnelly, Head of Delegation, Caritas Internationalis (Moderator)

RSVP and Questions

To RSVP for the event, please do so online by 4 pm on October 18, 2017 at the following link:

For questions or more information, please contact Fr. Roger Landry at 212.370.7885 x127 or
1. Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del conflict y la construccióon de una paz estable y durabera, 24 November 2016. Point 3, “la dejación de las armas y preparar la institucionalidad y al país para la reincorporación de las FARC-EP a la vida civil.”