Cablegate: Colombian Inter-Faith Meeting for Peace

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) On May 19, heads of local religious groups met to
launch a collective interfaith effort to help end the
conflict in Colombia. The effort will include all major
religious groups in the country. Part of the Interfaith
Meeting for Peace, launched by His Holiness Pope John Paul
II, has also made inroads in ensuring GOC officials
acknowledge the constitutional right of accession and other
rights afforded all religious groups in Colombia. End


2. (U) On May 19, heads of local religious groups met to
launch an interfaith effort to work collectively for peace in
Colombia. In attendance were the Secretary General of the
Federated Council of Evangelical Churches of Colombia
(CEDECOL) Jairo Monroy, Chief Rabbi Alfredo Goldschmidt,
Founder and Director of the Islamic Cultural Center Julian
Zapata, Catholic Bishop of Villavicencio Octavio Ruiz, Pastor
William Correa of the Conference of Episcopal Churches of
Colombia, Anglican Bishop Francisco Duque, Chief Rabbi
Richard Gamboa Ben-Eleazar of the Confederation of Catholic
Communities of Hebrew Tradition, and Israeli AMB to Colombia
Yair Recanati. PolOff was invited to observe.

3. (U) The Interfaith Meeting for Peace initiative serves as
a forum to exchange ideas on how to end conflict. It was
begun after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the
U.S. by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, who called members of
all faiths to work collectively for peace. Interfaith
Meetings for Peace have also taken place in Brazil, to
address in-country religious issues, and in Athens before the
2004 Olympics, to address global religious issues. In
Colombia, it has become an effort to build on shared
experiences to address past wrongs -- such as religious
persecution by the Colombian Catholic Church and the GOC
against Jews -- and to work together to prevent future


4. (U) Goals of the Interfaith Meeting -- agreed upon in
writing by the participants -- are forgiveness, brotherhood,
testimony, and peace. The first is a call for forgiveness
for the defamation and distortion of another groups' beliefs
that have caused wars and persecution. Brotherhood is the
belief that all are united under God, regardless of cultural,
language, or other differences. And that each group should
recognize their similarities, the need to live in peace and
happiness, to respect and assist each other when in need, and
to build a civilization more humane and peaceful. Testimony
means an acknowledgment to God to live in peace and justice.
Peace is the desire for order and tranquillity, collaboration
and reciprocal respect, which is derived from natural law and
explicitly found in each religion.

5. (U) Another important area of concern for the Interfaith
Meeting participants is the constitutional recognition of
accession. A 1997 public law agreement between the State and
non-Roman Catholic religions and denominations allowed these
organizations to minister to their adherents in public
institutions such as hospitals or prisons, to provide
chaplaincy services and religious instruction in public
schools, and to perform marriages recognized by the State.
However, some prominent non-Christian religious groups, such
as the Jewish community, have not sought to accede to the
1997 public law. Several non-Catholic groups, such as the
Episcopal and Evangelical churches, complain of
discrimination of parishioners by GOC officials at low
levels. In several undocumented cases, religious officials
have complained that parishioners already legally married in
a church ceremony have encountered problems with GOC
officials in recognizing these unions. Some married couples
have been told that in order for the marriage to be
documented they must also have a civil ceremony before a
judge. According to Anglican Bishop Duque, Catholic
officials have acknowledged the issue and are working with
non-Catholic and non-Christian groups to ensure that the
constitution is being upheld. The Ministry of Interior and
Justice has stated that it reprimands local authorities when
complaints of such noncompliance are received.


6. (U) Interfaith Meeting for Peace participants believe
that, by creating a united front of like-minded groups, they
could pressure the GOC and illegal armed actors to find
peaceful solutions to end the conflict. The effort is in its
nascent stages, and meetings so far have served as gestures
to ease prior tensions rather than setting specifics on what
their peace plan should entail. However, the group hopes to
develop a formal plan in successive meetings in the near


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