This month's Global Voice is an interview with former Colombian
Senator Mrs Viviane Morales. Mrs Morales wrote the law known as
'Concorda Evangelica' which gave equal rights to the more than four
million Protestants in Colombia. In this interview conducted in
Colombia, Mrs Morales comments on the present situation there as
well as the challenges and hopes for the future.
GLOBAL VOICE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MRS VIVIANE MORALES, COLOMBIA
Global Voice: We hear so much bad news from Colombia - is there
any good news?
Mrs Viviane Morales: There is a democratic development towards a
real democracy. It started in about 1991 and has made a lot of
progress. There is also a new possibility now to find a
solution to the conflicts. Almost 14,000 para-military soldiers
have turned their guns over to the police during the last six
months and that is a good sign that something positive is
happening. The ongoing peace talks in Cuba between ELN and the
government are also a good sign. I am very happy that
Evangelicals are involved in those talks. Evangelicals have a
good reputation as defenders of the poor in ELN circles. [ELN:
Ejército de Liberación Nacional - National Liberation Army]
GV: What are the biggest challenges facing Colombia now?
Morales: There are many, but let me mention a few. One very
important challenge is the integration of the para-militaries
with society. They get some money for a year but if they are
not integrated well many will turn back to crime. Living
conditions for them are not good because many are given small
apartments in Bogota in areas with practically no work. Another
challenge is that in areas that were controlled by the
para-military there will now be a power vacuum that FARC surely
wants to fill. That must not be allowed to happen. A third is
the challenge of having some two million internally displaced
people as a result of the conflicts.
GV: What is the role of the Church?
Morales: The Church has a great influence. Evangelical churches
are all over the country. In one area with a lot of fighting
there are three Catholic churches, one of which is closed. In
the same area there are 57 Evangelical churches and they are
all open and the pastors live with the people and suffer with
them. What the Church needs to do now is show our nation what
real forgiveness is. We must learn to forgive. There are very
deep wounds in our nation and the Church could be an agent for
both healing and reconciliation. We used to dream of full
religious freedom - now we have it! Today we need a new dream:
the dream to forgive and have peace!
GV: Can there be justice without land reform for the poor?
Morales: That is a very complicated legal question as the drug-
lords and para-militaries have been able to buy tens of
thousands of acres of land after attacking and threatening the
small farmers. They have then legally obtained papers that
declare they now own the land, but often it was after a 'if you
do not sell the land I will buy it from your widow' threat. The
state must find some way to return land to those who lost it
GV: Few Senators in the world have done so much for religious
freedom with such obvious results as you. Why is religious
freedom important to you?
Morales: I know very well what it means to be a victim of
discrimination. I was a member of a Protestant church. In
university I got the best results in several tests and was the
candidate to get a big scholarship. But when they found out
that I was a Protestant they said that I could not get the
scholarship. That was a painful lesson for me. The reason I
joined an Evangelical church was the help these churches gave
the poor. They were really demonstrating their faith in a very
wonderful way. Later, as a Senator, I realised that Protestants
could not be buried in certain graveyards due to their beliefs,
there was discrimination in schools and they could not work in
prisons or hospitals even if ten percent of the population were
Protestant. That was when I decide to write the law on
religious freedom. That law was then passed in the Senate and
later enacted to give equal rights to all.
GV: In March you are running for the Senate again for the Liberal
Party. Are you optimistic?
Morales: Absolutely! I want to work for human rights, women's
issues and peace based on my Christian conviction that God
loves every person, and every living person has the right to
respect and security.
Global Voice wishes Mrs Morales success in the elections in March!
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