The Nobel Committee has announced today that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. This was despite the fact that the referendum last week to ratify the peace treaty was lost by a very thin margin – 50.22% No and 49.78% Yes, though various surveys predicted easy passage.
Since 1964 the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo, FARC–EP and FARC) rebels waged a guerrilla war against the civilian governments.
This year, on June 23, with an intent to end one of the world’s longest-running conflicts, Colombia’s government and the FARC signed a historic ceasefire agreement. An unprecedented treaty between the FARC and the Colombian government has taken place on Sept 27. Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, and the Marxist rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, known by the alias Timochenko, using a pen made from a bullet signed an agreement shook hands for the first time ending a half-century war that killed a quarter of a million people.
For Col0mbia, it was not just diplomacy that worked. Spiritual Guru and humanitarian leader Sri Sri Ravisankar played a key role in the negotiations.
At the 27 September event Sri Sri was an honored guest at the historic signing ceremony in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. He was invited by the Colombian president as well as the FARC leadership due to his influence with the FARC rebel group to follow the Gandhian principle of non-violence. “You have been a friend of this peace process. Your guidance has been very important. I will be always grateful to you,” said President Juan Manuel Santos to Sri Sri after the event.
Back on June 28, 2015 it was announced that Colombia was going to embrace the principles of non-violence in a joint statement by Sri Sri Ravisankar and FARC. On July 20, 2015 the FARC announced a unilateral cease-fire. The peace talk facilitated by Sri Sri eventually led to the signing of this cease-fire between the Colombian government and the FARC in Havana.
In June 2015, Sri Sri had met President Santos in Bogota and promised that he would do everything in his capacity to bring peace to all and then held intensive peace talks with the FARC peace delegation led by Ivan Marquez in Havana, Cuba. During these meetings Sri Sri insisted that the communication gap needed to be bridged and both parties should adopt the principle of non-violence and put social justice in the forefront.
President Santos in a video statement said “I met with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Bogota in June of last year and I had the great joy of speaking with him about the efforts we are making in our country to end an internal armed conflict that has lasted for more than 50 years.” He also added “Later on, with my consent, he met in Havana with the negotiators of the FARC guerrillas and urged them to follow the Gandhian principle of non-violence and to cultivate the art of meditation and breathing. Today, I want to thank him for this effort.”
In recognition of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s efforts, The Republic of Colombia awarded Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with the “Simón Bolivar Order,” the highest civilian award, for his peace work and efforts in Colombia.
Ivan Marquez, Chief Negotiator of FARC, said in a video statement. “Let us thank and acknowledge Sri Sri Ravi Sankar for his humanitarian concern and solidarity to put an end to the longest armed conflict in our America…His meeting in Havana with the peace delegation of the FARC has motivated us to search in every possible way the path that takes Colombia to its encounter with the principle of non-violence.”
During his trip to Colombia, Sri Sri addressed a group of 500 social leaders inviting them to cultivate inner peace and support the peace process. He held meetings with the Minister of Post-Conflict, Rafael Pardo with whom he discussed ways to build peace and reconciliation. The Director of the Victims Unit, Alan Jara and a group of 12 most known victims met Sri Sri.
“The challenge of peace in Colombia can make this nation the new Switzerland of Latin America if we work together to unite the heart and minds of Colombians,” he said. Sri Sri has been invited to be the keynote speaker in an event called Reconciliation Colombia in Cali on November 30th this Year.
Though these historical events does not guarantee that the peace will dawn on the country immediately. Because the long history of violence, extortion and killings will not vanish from people’s memory very soon. However, a process of healing has started and since it has a deeper connection beyond politics, chances are that this will succeed. The high hopes stem from the fact that the Art of Living in Colombia is developing peace-building programs that will be adopted in the post-conflict period.
Marquez also noted in his message: “With the help of Sri Sri, we have placed our spirit to achieve reconciliation and coexistence of a big and benevolent country whose destiny cannot be that of the war. The teachings of The Art of Living are essential to achieve a stable and long lasting peace. We hope that the peace of Colombia serves as a source of inspiration for the world.”
Sri Sri has been working with leaders of many conflict zones including in Palestine, Kashmir and even in Iraq to help the Yezidis.
The world awaits to see how the Nobel Prize winner and other leaders in Colombia pass this current phase of hope-and-no-hope so that Colombia, South America and the world would be safer.