The first ever Latin American Pope spoke words of kindness, forgiveness, and optimism to throngs of Colombians deeply divided about the future of their country.

Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, delivered an open-air mass to a crowd estimated at 1.3 million in a public park in Bogota, Colombia. Tensions remain high throughout the country as a controversial new status quo settles over the nation.

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It was only one year ago that a peace deal was reached between the Colombian government and the leftist FARC rebels, with whom armed conflicts have been raging for over 52 years. The agreement saw the FARC lay down their weapons and demobilize their military operations in exchange for government resettlement and assistance.

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Many in Colombia feel that the FARC got off too easily in the agreement. After more than half a century of fighting, it is estimated that over 220,000 civilians were killed, and over 1 million Colombians displaced.  

The deal was only narrowly pushed through in Colombia’s congress after failing to pass a public referendum.

Amid this division and mistrust, Francis delivered a message of reconciliation and hope, which deeply affected those who turned out to hear it.

The theme of his mass was clear: peace is not maintained in words alone, but in action.

“Silencing the guns is worthless if we remain armed in our hearts,” he counseled the crowd. “Ending the war is worthless if we still see each other as enemies.”

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Urging for solidarity and action, Francis called upon Colombia’s youth to bear the difficult burden of forgiveness, noting that young people are often more well equipped to move into the future without carrying with them the grudges of past pains.

“You make us see the wider world which stands before us, the whole of Colombia that wishes to grow and continue its development,” Francis claimed. “Leave behind what has hurt us and look to the future without the burden of hatred.”

He also called on the Colombian government to legislate solutions to the structural inequality that led to the FARC’s inception and decades-long battle to change the social and economic dynamics of the country.

The Pope’s mass, and his message of working toward a peaceful future for the country of Colombia, represent the overall purpose of his five day visit to Colombia.

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Healing the wounds of five decades of conflict is a tall order, but Pope’s visit sparked many moments that showed the country is moving in the right direction.

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In an open letter to the Pope, the head of the FARC political party, Rodrigo Londono, asked his Holiness’ forgiveness for the damage he caused over the past 50 years.

Last Monday, another rebel group known as the National Liberation Army agreed with the government to a three-month ceasefire under which a longer term deal could be negotiated.

Francis’ warm and widespread reception in the heavily Catholic country is another indication that despite conflicts and differences in ideologies, the people of Colombia want peace.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, and establishing peace, justice, and strong insitutions is number 16. You can take action on this issue here.


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