ROME – Colombia’s bishops have said “weapons and violence only generate destruction,” after leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced “a new stage of fighting.”

The announcement came three years after a peace agreement was signed by the government of Juan Manuel Santos and Colombia’s main rebel group.

The members of the Marxist guerrilla group announced their decision in a 32-minute YouTube video posted Thursday. More than 20 armed fighters stood in green camouflage uniforms with a sign that read “As long as there is a will to fight there will be hope for victory” behind them.

Luciano Marin, alias Iván Márquez, accused the state of not fulfilling “its most important obligation, which is to guarantee the life of its citizens and especially avoid assassinations for political reasons.”

After the FARC declaration, Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega, the president of the bishops’ conference, released a statement saying that “peace is possible if we truly want it,” but that it requires everyone’s commitment.

“Weapons and violence only generate destruction, pain and death, and there’s nothing that justifies war with ideological purposes,” the archbishop said.

The bishops also said that they support all those who “through dialogue and negotiation, decided to affirm reincorporation into civil and democratic life, and remain firm in this.”

The situation the country is going through, the bishops argued, is not a reason to tire of the commitment to reconciliation.

Quoting Pope Francis, who visited Colombia in 2017, the bishops urged their flock not to let their hopes be stolen.

Under the peace agreement, thousands of FARC members gave up their arms in exchange for the Colombian government’s commitment to protect them and to build infrastructure in poor, isolated communities in the countryside.

Last year, Colombians elected Iván Duque as president. He campaigned on a promise to revise the controversial peace deal, arguing that it had been too lenient for rebels who had kidnapped Colombian citizens and committed other atrocities.

Two weeks ago, Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor, the pope’s ambassador in Colombia visited Cauca, a region in the country where ex-guerrilla fighters are living. He encountered some of those former fighters, who complained that they have been victims of violence.

The former FARC members who vowed to resume armed conflict said they will work with the National Liberation Army (ELN), another guerrilla group that didn’t sign the peace accord. The ELN leadership embraced the announcement, saying that it’s “better late than never.”

However, the former commander of the FARC, who’s now a politician, said that he’s still committed to the peace accord, as is the majority of the former guerrilla fighters.

“Now more than ever, our commitment as a majority, as a party, as a country, is to peace, defending and complying with the agreement,” said Rodrigo Londoño. “Anyone who strays away from peace is mistaken, as are those who have always attacked it.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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