WEDNESDAY
February 16, 2000
volume 11, no. 33
To print out entire text
of Today's issue, go to
SECTION ONE
SECTION TWO
SECTION THREE

NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

COLOMBIAN REBELS, OFFICIALS MEET VATICAN OFFICIALS WHILE IN BOGOTA THE CHURCH IN COLOMBIA WARNS OF INCREASING PROBLEM OF REFUGEES

    VATICAN (CWNews.com) - Colombian rebels, accompanied by government officials, visited the Vatican on Monday to meet with Vatican officials and seek their help in mediating an end to the country's 36-year civil war.

    The rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Colombia's peace commissioner met with a representative of Pope John Paul II, but are unlikely to gain an audience with Holy Father during their visit. The rebels and government officials are on a European tour to gain support for the peace process in the South American country.

    The six Marxist FARC rebel commanders are all wanted on murder, kidnapping, and terrorism charges in Colombia. But arrest warrants pending against them have been suspended for the duration of slow-moving talks, now a year old, to end the civil war that has claimed more than 35,000 lives in the last decade.

    Archbishop Pedro Rubiano of Bogota said that while talk with the FARC is important, it is also important to make demands of the rebels. "You have to make these people see that it's not by destroying towns, killing children and women that peace is made," he said. FARC has been ceded virtual control of a large portion of Colombia, ruling it in totalitarian fashion with harsh "war taxes," involuntary drafts of young men, and a profitable trade in illegal drugs to North America.

    Meanwhile, back in Bogota, the Colombian Bishops' Conference this week issued a document showing the increasing number of refugees and displaced as a consequence of rebel violence in the country.

    The document is dated December 1999, but was made public last weekend, on the occasion of the visit of the Deputy High Commissioner for the Refugees of the United Nations, Soren Jesse-Petersen. Jesse-Petersen said during his visit the Catholic Church has been "one of the few organizations with reliable figures" on the number of those displaced by the violence.

    The bishops' conference started tracking the displaced population in 1995, when the problem became a nation-wide drama. According to the last report, between 1995 and last year, 726,000 Colombians fled their towns to seek safety in main cities such as Bogota, Cali and Medellin. Thirty-three percent were displaced because of "uncontrolled violence," 29 percent as a consequence of activities from the left-wing rebels, while 14 percent escaped because of activities of the right-wing paramilitaries.

    The Church's report said 65 percent of the people left their homes because of direct death threats, while 14 percent did so because of massive killings in the region. Moreover, 55 percent of the refugees are teenagers or children, most of whom have become beggars or a cheap and unstable labor force in the cities.

    The report also says that the large majority of the refugees want to go back to their places of origin, "but they require a minimum of safety and guarantees from the government."

    The report ends warning that "the problem of the displaced and refugees in Colombia is increasing to the point of becoming a problem on its own and not a mere 'side effect' of the violence, as many authorities seem to believe." It adds, "It is urgent that simple but bold measures are taken before this problem fuels even more violence."

          

February 16, 2000
volume 11, no. 33
NEWS & VIEWS

To print out text of Today's issue, go to:
SECTION ONE | SECTION TWO | SECTION THREE

The DAILY CATHOLIC Search for anything
from the last three
years in past issues of
the DailyCATHOLIC: