As a member of the Interfaith Working Group on Trade & Investment, NETWORK participated in a Prayer Breakfast on Human Rights and the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The purpose of the breakfast was to gather - with faith leaders and policy experts - to reflect on the reality of human rights abuses in Colombia and to pray for policy steps that will empower the most vulnerable people in Colombia. Three speakers spoke of the still severe human rights crisis in Colombia and why passage of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will only exacerbate the situation. The speakers included: Representative James McGovern  (D-MA), Lisa Haugaard  (Executive Director of the Latin America Working Group), and the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson  (Director of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church, USA). Finally, the breakfast concluded with a litany read by Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS (Executive Director of NETWORK).
I have to agree with the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson who pointedly stated, “I believe based on my faith and not politics that trade ought to represent a reciprocity of love for another country while providing a just and equitable agreement for all.” As Catholics we are called to share in this same message for and with our brothers and sisters who are most vulnerable. We must share the same concern as Pope Benedict XVI when looking at the global economies’ overemphasis on profit at the expense of human and community needs. In his latest encyclical Caritas en Veritate, Pope Benedict writes, “Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end…Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty” (21). We must continue to oppose the Colombia FTA as profit remains the exclusive goal, at the cost of human rights and dignity.
NETWORK continues to oppose this FTA because:
- Violence against trade unionists and human rights defenders in Colombia remains unacceptably high.
- Agriculture provisions in the agreement will accelerate displacement and push people into illicit crop production.
- Investment provisions will allow foreign investors in extractive industries to displace poor Colombians.
Furthermore, passage of the FTA in this unstable and war-torn nation will devastate small-scale farmers, will accelerate displacement in a country that already has over five million internally displaced people, will hurt public health, and will increase instability, poverty and inequality.
Please join us as we continue to pray that the leaders in both the U.S. and Colombia will act in defense of human rights rather than business profits. We also especially pray for the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities that they may know, as Rep. McGovern said, “…a time when the culture of impunity is broken and the victims of violence will have confidence that the perpetrators of violence will be brought to justice.”