Conference in Bogotá (Colombia): Paz, reconcilisación a justicia transicional

P. Jorge H. Peláez SJ, Rector of Javeriana at his opening speech

Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC-Guerilla and the prospects of a reconciliation process in Colombia formed the background of our international conference in Bogotá.

Will it actually come to a long-term peace between the warring parties in Colombia when a peace treaty between the government and the FARC guerrillas will have been signed by the end of March?? Can society after decades of violence and hatred take the path of reconciliation? Against the background of these questions, our international conference “Paz y Justicia Reconciliación Transicional” was held in collaboration with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, from 25th to 28th of February 2016 in Bogotá. Around 40 alumni from seven Latin American countries and guests from Germany had come together at the renowned Jesuit University; among them KAAD-General Dr. Hermann Weber, the political scientist Dr. Sabine Kurt Bach (GIGA Hamburg) and the spiritual councils of KAAD, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Engel O.P. and Prof. Dr. Thomas Eggensperger O.P.

Participants Julián Bustamante (Colombia) nd Galo Nina (Ecuador)

In his opening address Hermann Weber marked a broad frame, by referring to cultures of remembrance and reconciliation processes in different parts of the world since the Second World War. He also reflected theoretically on the central concepts of the conference. The KAAD Alumni (in their majority lawyers and political scientists) brought not only their professional expertise but gave the conference its special character, in that they incorporated comparative perspectives from numerous Latin American countries. This, for example, allowed participants to debate on the work and experiences of truth commissions in Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.

Alumnus Paul Dávila with K. Dangand und E. Apolinar (lawyers for indigenous rights)

Discussions of the event went quite controversial, particularly with regard to the concept of “transitional justice”. Many Colombian lawyers put the peace process into question if it cannot be implemented within the framework of the established legal system and existing laws, while others view a “transitional legal system” as part of the reconciliation process. The central theme of “forgiveness and memory as basic elements of reconciliation” – also of key importance from the perspective of the Church – was discussed in a separate working group.