The recent news that the government and the left-wing guerrilla group FARC-EP have agreed to work towards a peace agreement by March 2016 is a welcome and significant step forward. At the same time, however, violations of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief and freedom of conscience, remain high.
While Colombians in many parts of the country are able to exercise their freedom of religion or belief without severe restrictions, the daily reality for others, particularly those living in conflict zones or in areas with a significant presence of illegal armed groups or on indigenous reserves, is very different. All actors in the armed conflict – including left-wing guerrilla groups the FARC-EP and the ELN, far right neo-paramilitary groups, criminal bands and government security forces – are guilty of ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief and freedom of conscience. Religious leaders in many of these areas, including but not limited to Cauca, Southern Cordoba, Caquetá, Guaviare, Meta, La Guajira, and Chocó, report that the overall security situation, as well as the specific issue of freedom of religion or belief, remains poor.
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