(Vatican Radio) Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the 52-year conflict with the Marxist FARC rebels. It was seen as a surprise choice after Colombians narrowly voted in a referendum last week to reject the peace deal signed by Santos and the rebels.
The Nobel Committee said Santos had brought one of the longest civil wars in modern history significantly closer to a peaceful solution but there was still a real danger the peace process could come to a halt and that war could flare up again.
Santos has promised to revive the peace plan despite the outcome of the referendum and said the Nobel peace prize award was "of invaluable importance" to further the peace process.
Colombia’s Catholic Church played a key role as a mediator between the two sides during the long-running peace negotiations and has been at the forefront of trying to promote reconciliation.
Ulrike Beck is the Colombia Programme Officer for the Catholic aid agency, CAFOD and has just returned from a 3-week visit to Colombia. She spoke to Susy Hodges.
Asked for her reaction to President Santos winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Beck described the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Santos “as a clear sign” that the international community “supports” continuing efforts to forge a new peace deal between the Bogota government and the FARC rebels. She spoke of how CAFOD, its local partners and the Catholic Church in Colombia have long supported and campaigned for peace.
When it comes to Colombia’s human rights record, Beck revealed that CAFOD’s local partners “have very deep concerns” about the continuing murder of human rights defenders or activists inside Colombia. (Most of the killings have been attributed to criminal groups). She described how the situation has worsened of late with more than 22 human rights defenders killed during the past month alone. Beck pointed out that “many of those targeted,” are those “working for peace or on land and environmental issues.”
Coming back to the Nobel Peace Prize, Beck said it’s really “welcome” that there’s this “willingness” on the part of both parties in Colombia to continue the peace negotiations and called the awarding of this prestigious prize to President Santos “a very strong push to achieve peace.”
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