Yesterday we mentioned that Liz is in Colombia. Since then this action alert came across our desk from our friends at Catholics Confront Global Poverty. With Liz where she is, we thought it was very timely to share with you.
Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia:
Urge Congress to evaluate and refocus U.S. policy and assistance to Colombia
TAKE ACTION NOW!
Contact your members of Congress (click the link and scroll down the page) during the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia April 18-19 and urge them to:
1. Prioritize social and humanitarian aid for Colombian refugees and displaced persons; and
2. Decrease and redirect the disproportionate emphasis on military assistance for Colombia to give greater priority to the humanitarian needs of the conflict’s victims.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN COLOMBIA? Four decades of conflict deeply rooted in social and economic exclusion has relegated Colombia second only to Sudan as the country with the highest number of forcibly displaced persons within its borders according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Over 4 million people–or close to 10 per cent of the population-have been forcibly displaced within the country, and hundreds of thousands of Colombians have become refugees in neighboring countries. Colombia also suffers high rates of forced disappearances, threats and violence directed at rural communities and human rights defenders, and a largely hidden epidemic of gender-based violence.
HOW HAS THE U.S. RESPONDED? The United States has provided significant counternarcotics, military and social assistance to Colombia over the past decade. Despite some noteworthy advances in security, other issues such as internal displacement and refugee flows, widespread threats and targeted assassinations continue at an alarming rate. The Obama Administration and Congress have a significant opportunity at this moment to thoroughly evaluate and refocus U.S. policy and aid to Colombia: to prioritize the needs of the victims of the conflict, strengthen human rights protections, and support the foundations of a sustainable resolution to the current conflict.
WHAT DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH URGE THE U.S. TO DO? The Colombian Catholic Bishops Conference, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) agree that the United States can make a signifanct contribution to ending the violent conflict in Colombia and assisting affected communities. We urge the United States Congress to:
1. Prioritize social assistance and humanitarian aid for Colombian refugees and displaced persons by:
– Ensuring aid for the internally displaced in Colombia is maintained at FY 2010 levels and includes funding to prevent displacement and protect the rights of the displaced.
– Restoring funding for Colombian refugees and the Western Hemisphere in the Migration and Refugee Account that was cut by the Administration’s FY 2011 budget request to at least 2010 levels.
– Passing House Resolution 1224 that promotes the protection of the indigenous, Afro-Colombian and women who have been forcibly displaced.
2. Decrease and redirect the disproportionate emphasis on military aid to Colombia. After 11 years of military funding for Colombia, in what was intended to be a five year plan, it is time for the U.S. to significantly phase down military aid and give greater priority to the humanitarian needs of the victims of the conflict in Colombia.
3. Adopt trade policies that promote sustainable development in Colombia. Any trade agreement with Colombia should include, among other important mechanisms to minimize losses, protections for small farmers. Without such protections, the loss of rural livelihoods is likely to push farmers towards illicit crops, increase the number of displaced persons, and deepen the conflict.
WHAT DOES THE CONFLICT IN COLOMBIA HAVE TO DO WITH MY FAITH? The Catholic Church’s social teaching is rooted in the sacredness and fundamental dignity of every human life. We are called to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need throughout the world because we are all part of one human family. Good stewardship of our resources urges us to assist those most vulnerable, particularly refugees and internally displaced people as well as to promote policies that prevent further displacement and poverty.
HOW IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SUPPORTING PEACE IN COLOMBIA? The Colombian Catholic Church, USCCB, and CRS are working to promote peace and reconciliation in Colombia while providing assistance to the people who need it most–the displaced, the victims of violence and the poor. We also promote policies that can bring about a just and sustainable peace.