Bogota, Colombia, is the site of this year’s Catholic Peacebuilding Network conference. Church leaders, scholars and peacebuilding practitioners from around the world are gathering this week (June 24 to 29) to share wisdom and focus on solutions for achieving a just and lasting peace.
After nearly four decades of armed conflict, Colombia faces the western hemisphere’s most serious humanitarian crisis. Each year, 4,500 civilians die, and more than 3.2 million people have been forced to leave their homes due to clashes among government security forces, left-wing guerillas and right-wing paramilitaries.
The Catholic Church has played a prominent role in mediating Colombia’s conflict and leading the country toward peace, justice and reconciliation, said Jerry Powers, director of policy studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network. Many church workers, from bishops to lay men and women, have lost their lives as a result of their peacebuilding activities.
The conference unites peacebuilders within the Church and the academy, Powers said. “Individuals doing the complex and often dangerous work of defusing conflict and promoting peace in a place like Colombia have a great deal to teach academics and others from around the world who think and write about these issues. At the same time, peacebuilders can benefit from the analysis and breadth of knowledge of scholars and others who study and write about peace.”
The Colombian sponsor of the conference is the Secretariado Nacional de Pastoral Social/Caritas Colombiana of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference. Co-sponsors include Catholic Relief Services, the Kroc Institute and Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute forInternational Studies. Boston College’s Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Caritas Internationalis, Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights and the United Nations Development Program have also provided support for the conference.
“This conference is an outgrowth of a long history of collaboration for peace among Notre Dame and other Catholic universities and Church institutions,” Powers said.
This conference is the fourth in a series of annual gatherings to enhance the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding. In previous years, it has been held in Bujumbura, Burundi (July 2006); in Mindanao, the Philippines (July 2005); and at Notre Dame (May 2004). Next spring it will again be held at Notre Dame.
The Catholic Peacebuilding Network was formed in 2004 by the Kroc Institute and Catholic Relief Services, with the active involvement of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Maryknoll, the Center for International Social Development at the Catholic University of America, the Sant’Egidio Community in the United States, Pax Christi International and Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
Originally published by newsinfo.nd.edu on June 25, 2007.at