Last Updated:7/11/02
Conference of Major Superiors of Men and Leadership Conference of Women Religious, letter, July 8, 2002
July 8, 2002

The Honorable Robert Byrd
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Byrd:

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), representing approximately 100,000 sisters, brothers and religious order priests in the United States, are concerned about the proposed changes in U.S. foreign policy and foreign aid, particularly regarding Colombia. U.S. religious congregations that we represent have missionaries in Colombia from whom we receive first hand reports.

Our colleagues in Central and Latin America and the Caribbean are telling us how much the situation continues to deteriorate. Noncombatants are caught in the middle of violent conflicts that are growing worse daily. Reports of the deaths of civilians are increasing. Just this week we were informed of the death of Fr. Hilario Arango Serna, who was murdered after celebrating Mass in Cali. This follows the death of Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino of Cali in March. Religious sisters, brothers and priests, and diocesan clergy are particular targets of violence because of their work among the poor and those most affected by the violence of the war. Five priests have been killed this year alone.

In February our Conferences met with representatives of the religious of that region who asked us to join them in advocating for an end to the violence and a resumption of the peace talks.

Shortly after that meeting we sent a letter to members of Congress expressing our concern over the proposed changes in U.S. policy toward Colombia that would lift the human rights restrictions on U.S. aid to Colombia and would allow that aid to be used for military purposes other than stopping the production and export of drugs. We believe that only through sustainable development assistance, not additional military aid, will peace be possible in Colombia. We also believe that releasing U.S. funds for military assistance in the civil war will only lead to a further escalation of the conflict and continue the spiral of violence.

As you prepare to meet to discuss the FY02 Supplemental Appropriations bill, we urge you to make no change in U.S. policy from counter-narcotics to counter-insurgency. For this reason we would urge you to strip any language and funding for Colombia from this legislation. It is only through a negotiated peace process, not military measures, that the Colombian people will be able to nurture healthy development and peace for their country.

If the legislation is to include aid to Colombia, we prefer the language of the Senate version over the House since it does not include a change in policy under the Department of Defense and provides that a portion of the $3.5 million in aid be reimbursed to the U.S. government, thus not providing a form of "corporate welfare."

Thank you for your willingness to consider this request to respond with justice for the Colombian people.


Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP
O.F.M.Conv. President

Canice Connors,

The membership of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has approximately 1,500 men and women religious leaders who are responsible for more than 700 Catholic institutes in the United States. Together, the conferences' members represent more than 100,000 of the country's Catholic sisters, brothers, and priests.

Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

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