It is no secret that Colombia has been in a critical situation since 28 April, when the nationwide strike was called to oppose the tax reform bill proposed by the government because of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the terrible consequences it would have for Colombians, especially for the middle class and the poorest. However, as is well known, there have been countless sad and regrettable situations in the course of these days. There have been deaths, disappearances, and a considerable number of wounded. In addition, the excessive abuse of the forces of law and order has been evident, and situations of vandalism by some people and groups have distorted and affected the peaceful protests.
As a missionary Church, as religious and Colombians, we are not indifferent to these situations of profound pain; we accompany each of the people who have joined the peaceful marches, we are with the people who cry out and suffer in the midst of pain, injustice, anger and despair. In the same way, we repudiate and condemn categorically all acts of repression and abuse that are against life and the defence of the dignity of any person, but especially of our poorest and most disadvantaged brothers and sisters. As a Church, we are present, and we accompany the people; we denounce and demand an end to violence and respect for life. We do not tolerate authoritarianism or vandalism.
It is also true that many people in Colombia have expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of pronouncements by the local Church or the lack of accompaniment and closeness to the people who are marching. In the face of this discontent, we have seen how the Church, though many priests, seminarians, religious and a good number of lay believers, have joined this cause, thereby assuming the commitment and responsibility with all our brothers and sisters in the country.
As the Colombian Church, we have called for national reconciliation, dialogue and the search for peaceful alternatives for the benefit of all. We are also very clear and aware that we must continue to accompany our parishioners more closely, putting into practice the prophetic role of our vocation because we cannot remain silent and indifferent. Therefore, we ask the government and the higher institutions to promote and defend the rights and the life of all people. We cannot continue killing each other; we do not want to see more blood spilt.
Monsignor Romero said in his homily of 23 March 1980: “The Church, defender of God’s rights, of God’s law, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent in the face of so much abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are of no use if they are stained with so much blood… In the name of God, therefore, and in the name of these suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more and more tumultuous every day, I beg you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God: Stop the repression…”!
Therefore, as Christian leaders, and heeding the call that Pope Francis has so often made, let us make noise, and in the face of these situations, let us raise our voices, let us go out to bear witness to the Gospel and to meet with others. Today it is necessary that we go out to offer the life of Jesus Christ to all because it is better to have a Church that is injured, wounded and stained by going out into the streets, rather than a Church that is sick because of the confinement and comfort of clinging to its own security. However, it is not possible for us as a Church to be architects and participants in division, violence and hatred, because the great Revolutionary of History, JESUS, taught us that it is possible to change the structures of death, never with the promotion of hatred and violence, but with love, commitment, mercy and forgiveness.
Carlos Daniel Franco Ramírez, Redemptorist novice
Province of Bogotá