of Major Superiors of Men and Leadership Conference of Women Religious,
letter, July 8, 2002
The Honorable Robert
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
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