In a national vote, Colombians rejected a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army, also known as FARC, which was intended to end 52 years of guerrilla warfare. The referendum’s failure to pass follows four years of negotiations between President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC, which Cuba hosted and facilitated. Colombians rejected the measure in a 50.2 to 49.8 vote.
FARC is a Marxist-Leninist movement that first mobilized peasants in 1964 and used kidnapping and ransom demands to fund its operations. FARC guerillas have also engaged in illegal mining, extortion, and drug trafficking. FARC claims a force of nearly 14,000 members, of which half are guerilla combatants, though the government disputes those numbers.
Peace has been a major objective of President Santos’ administration, and he vowed to continue pursuing that goal. Colombia’s civil war has been the longest running war in the Americas, claiming more than 220,000 lives and displacing more than six million people.
One goal of the peace accord was to demobilize guerillas and reintegrate them into society and politics. Guerilla troops were wary of the agreement and doubted they could assimilate into Colombian society. Santos received the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
Both FARC and another violent guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), have consistently persecuted Catholics and evangelicals. As recently as July 7, 2016, ELN detained nine pastors and took them to Venezuela, demanding that each pay $700 in “protection money”—or face possible execution. Further, the ELN placed new restrictions on evangelicals living in their area of control, which included no house meetings for Bible studies or prayer. ELN also forbids the construction of new churches.
Evangelicals have often been at odds with Colombian guerillas and their drug trafficking. The guerillas fear that the evangelicals are working with authorities to stop their illegal activities.
Pray for a lasting peace in Colombia that protects the rights of Christians and the work of the church.