A new Reconciliation Center has opened in Florencia (Caquetá), a region in the southwest of Colombia where the armed opposition group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has traditionally been active.
The Center will provide residents, including victims of violence and demobilized people, the opportunity to establish a dialogue and exchange their ideas, recognizing each other as part of a community that shares the same dream: being able to live in peace.
The department of Caquetá is one of the areas that has suffered the most from the armed conflict with more than 273,000 victims of violence. In the past seven years, the number of demobilized people in the region has increased from 96 in 2007 to 925 in 2014.
This prompted La Fundación para la Reconciliación (Reconciliation Foundation) to recognize the need for civil society to create and lead the Center. The initiative is supported by the Colombian Reintegration Agency, IOM and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“It is essential for reconciliation and reintegration initiatives to be managed regionally, because it is the provinces that were most impacted by the conflict. This Center will provide opportunities for people who have laid down their weapons to receive forgiveness and healing from victims of the war. We are very proud to drive this initiative and believe that thanks to these efforts, thousands of Colombians will be able to look at each other again without feeling anger,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Chief of Mission in Colombia.
The Reconciliation Center received financial, technical and moral support from the Community-Oriented Reintegration of Ex-Combatants (CORE) Program, which has been active in Colombia since 2006 and is backed by IOM and USAID.
“The Center will be a space in which the practice of principles such as respect, inclusion, participation, and the protection of life will be upheld. We aim to contribute to the reconstruction and strengthening of the dynamics of coexistence through the construction of spaces for peace and reconciliation,” said Father Leonel Narváez, who leads La Fundación para la Reconciliación.
More than 1,000 people are expected to visit the Center each month, including demobilized people, victims, receptor communities, single mothers, and children who have disengaged from the armed groups. They will participate in forgiveness and healing sessions, listening centers, productive training, and local peace initiatives.
The Director of the Colombian Reintegration Agency, Alejandro Eder said: “The creation of this Center is fundamental for the department of Caquetá, because the demobilized population there is increasing and continues to grow as more people leave the ranks of the FARC each day. The activities of the Reconciliation Center will complement our activities so that they have a better chance of success when they return to civilian life.”
During the past 50 years Colombia has endured an internal armed conflict with guerrilla and paramilitary groups that has left more than 220,000 people dead, including 180,000 civilians, according to the National Center for Historical Memory.
For more information please contact Jadin Vergara at IOM Colombia, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +57 1 639 7777 Ext. 1715.