Jesuit to lead Truth Commission

Fr Francisco de Roux SJ has been chosen to lead Colombia’s Truth Commission. The commission seeks to establish the truth behind half-a-century of armed conflict with the Marxist FARC guerrillas. The Jesuit priest, a former provincial of Columbia, has more than 40 years of experience in promoting peace and is one of the men behind the CINEP, an influential Christian think tank. Fr ‘Pacho’ is the founder and director of the Magdalena Medio Development and Peace Programme.

The formal title for the process will be the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition. It will have eleven members including a renowned sociologist, journalists, doctors and an army major. The Truth Commission will try to reconstruct the facts of what happened during the 52-year armed conflict, which has left more than eight million victims, although it won’t have any legally binding authority or the authority to impose punishments. Evidence obtained in the commission may not be forwarded to be used against suspects in criminal court cases.

Similar commissions, most notably in South Africa, but also in East Timor, Congo, Rwanda etc, follow a restorative model of justice rather than retributive models.  They often produce reports that can challenge prevailing narratives about what has happened but also provide a platform for public hearings where victims can tell their stories. Often the process of just being listened to and heard can be the first step towards healing and reconciliation.  At the recent General Congregation of the Jesuits, GC36, a decree was issued called ‘Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice’ which recognised that, 'God continues his work of 'reconciling the world to himself in Christ'. The decree describes this mission alongside Christ the Reconciler on behalf of the common good as a key to the renewal of the Society. The congregation identified three calls,  to be reconciled with God,  the call to reconciliation within humanity and the call to reconciliation with creation.