Colombia’s left-wing FARC rebels called on Pope Francis on Sunday to intervene in ongoing peace talks with the government in an open letter penned by the group’s commander-in-chief.
FARC chief “Timochenko” requested in the letter that the head of the Catholic Church mediate in the peace talks amid guerrilla concerns that the peace process is being sabotaged by paramilitary successor groups and the country’s conservative political opposition.
“Paramilitary organizations are untying a criminal offensive in our country, aimed at demoralizing the friends of peace, summoning them by force of arms to act against the process, able to intimidate several regions of the country,” Timochenko said.
“Their nefarious action coincides with the conspiracy undertaken by political sectors that benefit from the war, stirring people and seeking to mobilize public opinion against the agreements reached,” added the guerrilla chief.
The FARC and Colombia’s government are locked in the final stages of negotiations but with a recent surge in activity by paramilitary successor group “Los Urabeños,” there is growing concern about the main heir’s successor threat to the peace talks and the prospects of peace in Colombia.
Timochenko acknowledged the pope’s attempts to making positive contributions to conflict areas, by “travelling to one and another place on the planet with your message of love.”
The FARC leader requested that Pope Francis “deploy a corresponding task” in the South American nation.
FARC’s plea for Pope Francis’ assistance comes as the pope has played a key role in pushing for reconciliation between conflicting parties.
Notably, in 2014, he helped ease tensions between Washington and Havana which culminated in the announcement that the US and Cuba would restore diplomatic relations in 2014.
The pope recently sought to urge a more humane response towards migrants, especially those fleeing violence by bringing 12 Syrian Muslims back to Italy aboard his chartered plane in a historic gesture.
The government and the FARC missed their self-imposed March 23 deadline to reach a peace agreement and are currently attempting to address the final issues on the agenda.
The remaining areas of discussion center on the demobilization of the rebels and the decommissioning of their weapons.
However, fighting between the Urabeños and guerrilla groups like the FARC and ELN, amplify guerrilla concerns they could face political extermination in the aftermath of laying down their arms.
This fear is largely based on the extermination of the leftist Patriotic Union party in the 1980s and 1990s and a lack of confidence the state is able to assume rapid control over current FARC territory.
“There are serious storm threats on the horizon, which threaten to knock down this grand effort by all the Colombian people,” the FARC’s top commander wrote.
Timochenko’s letter highlights the need for the Colombian nation to put their differences aside and embrace the peace agreement.
He called on the Catholic Church to take a “leading role” and asked Francis to openly support efforts to seal a peace deal.
“I agree with your renowned encyclical Laudato Si, and especially the part which refers to the suffering caused to the people by the selfishness of the market and the capitals. War is perhaps the worst of all the consequences,” he added.
Since the Colombian government and FARC launched reconciliatory proceedings in November 2012, the two parties have officially signed accords on four out of six on the agenda.
These include justice for victims, land reform, political participation for former rebels and combating drug trafficking.
However the issues of demobilization and decommissioning remain contentious particularly with the threat of neo-paramilitaries in the background.
An agreement between the two sides would end South America’s longest internal conflict that has cost the lives of more than 265,000 Colombians and forced the displacement of more than 6 million.