LATIN AMERICA CARIBBEAN
For over 50 years, constant conflict simmering between the Colombian government, crime syndicates, and Marxist/Communist left-wing guerillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has all too frequently exploded across the country, particularly in rural areas.
More than 7 million people have been displaced by the violence, leaving Colombia with more internal refugees, by some estimates, than anywhere else in the world. According to government tallies, more than 220,000 Colombians (fighters and civilians) have been killed over the last five decades because of the fighting.
Late in 2016, the Colombian government and FARC met in Havana, Cuba, to sign a peace treaty. Colombian voters rejected the measure in October 2016 because of its perceived lenience toward guerillas, but the government pushed ahead with the measure in November. FARC forces reportedly began disarming on March 1, and media sources have begun trumpeting that peace at last has come to Colombia.
Concerns remain that FARC forces may not fully demobilize in response to the treaty, or might simply absorb themselves into new or existing gangs. New vigilante groups are expected to emerge in response. Isolated indigenous groups are targeted by guerillas and paramilitary groups, forcing them to work in coca fields or as drug runners.
Colombia AG General Superintendent Humberto FajardoColombia Assemblies of God General Superintendent Humberto Fajardo was elected to office in January 2016. The Fellowship was divided over the treaty, he reports, as unrelated issues such as increased rights for transgender individuals were slipped into its verbiage. Evangelical Christians were widely blamed for the treaty’s initial failure to pass.
“Colombians are desperate for the conflict to end,” Fajardo says. “City-dwellers, who have access to more information about the plan’s details, voted it down as they realized how forgiving it is toward guerilla fighters. It even allows them to seek senate seats. People in the cities wanted them to face justice. Rural residents, who do not have access to so much information, voted to pass it because they are the ones most affected and most desperate for the violence to stop.”
Faced with a divided church Fellowship in a divided nation, Fajardo threw himself on God’s wisdom to navigate, mediate and lead others through the tangled situation while still “maintaining biblical distinctives.”
Fajardo believes it is vital that, as only God can truly heal Colombia’s wounds, the Colombia Assemblies of God rise to the challenge of their day by involving itself in as many areas as possible. “I would like the AG to be visibly represented and active in every area of civic life,” he says. “Some Christians want to tell the government how it should minister to Colombia’s hurting, instead of doing it themselves, but that is not how things are to work.”
The Colombia AG is a part of CEDECOL, a conglomeration of multiple religious and relief groups working to rebuild war-torn parts of the nation. Its relationships with other religious groups and organizations, like World Vision and the U.N., are positive and actively maintained.
The Colombia AG has plans in place to open 1,000 new churches in the next three years (largely in rural areas that were previously inaccessible due to violence) and to train 20,000 leaders to staff the new plants. They are also actively supportive of current ministers, providing them with care and the resources needed for ministering in a broken, hurting climate. Pastors are being trained to counsel bereaved families, and to better protect children, youth, single mothers and victims of sexual abuse. Every Colombia AG executive, including Fajardo himself, is required to continue as a full-time pastor of a church. “This keeps us much more in touch with reality,” he states.
Committees, each of which is led by an AG pastor, have also been established to allow churchgoers to participate in many aspects of recovery efforts and civil life. Committees include Civic and Political Leadership Training, Public Conflict Resolution, Relationships Between Church Denominations, and Church Leadership.
“We have a very strong pride in our country. The suffering has made us love Colombia even more,” Fajardo says. “And as Christian Colombians, we are very Pentecostal in our doctrine. We are focused on building the church.”
—Kristel Ortiz, AGWM Communications