Farc leader asks visiting pope’s forgiveness for war suffering

Up to 220,000 people killed during war that pitted Farc against right-wing groups

Pope Francis arrives to offer  a Mass at the Catama Park of Villavicencio, capital of Meta department, Colombia,  September 8th, 2017. He is on a five-day visit in Colombia. Photograph: Leonardo Munoz/EPA

Pope Francis arrives to offer a Mass at the Catama Park of Villavicencio, capital of Meta department, Colombia, September 8th, 2017. He is on a five-day visit in Colombia. Photograph: Leonardo Munoz/EPA

 

Former Colombian Farc rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, now the head of a new political party, on Friday asked for forgiveness from the visiting Pope Francis for the pain and suffering the group inflicted over five decades of war.

As many as 220,000 people were killed and millions displaced during a war that pitted the Marxist Farc and other rebel groups against right-wing paramilitaries and government troops.

Thousands became victims of kidnapping, attacks on civilian communities and landmines.

“Your repeated expressions about God’s infinite mercy move me to plead your forgiveness for any tears or pain that we have caused the people of Colombia, ” Londono said in an open letter to the pope.

Urged forgiveness

The pontiff has urged forgiveness and reconciliation during a five-day trip to Colombia in hopes of healing wounds left by the conflict.

Londono, who goes by the alias Timochenko, has converted the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia into a political movement known as the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, preserving the Spanish Farc acronym.

After two days in Bogotá, the Argentine pontiff was to head to the central city of Villavicencio on Friday, where he was to meet war victims, including survivors of Farc violence and bombings. He visits Medellín and Cartagena over the weekend.

The pope will hold a prayer meeting with 6,000 survivors of the conflict and see a destroyed statue of Christ brought from the western province of Choco for his visit to Villavicencio.

The effigy was recovered from a church attacked by the Farc in 2002 in a rainforest village. About 80 people were killed as they sought refuge from rebel bombings inside the humble building.

The plaster figure, without arms or legs, has become an enduring symbol of the bloody war.

The Farc demobilised in June after signing a peace agreement with the government late last year.

Under the terms of the peace accord, the Farc party will granted 10 seats in Congress through 2026 and may campaign for others. Both legislative and presidential elections are set for 2018.

Reuters