BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visited on Sunday the northwestern town of Bojaya in the Choco Department, where 14 years ago more than 70 people died in one of the worst massacres ever committed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The head of state participated in the town’s Sunday Mass held at St. Paul the Apostle, attended by several survivors of the massacre, in which between 74 and 119 civilians died, the Presidency of the Republic said in a statement.
The slaughter of Bojaya occurred on May 2, 2002, when a group of FARC insurgents launched a gas cylinder into a local church where villagers had taken shelter from clashes between the guerrillas and a paramilitary group.
Santos’ attendance at the Eucharist is his first public appearance outside of Bogota after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The ceremony was also attended by Diocese of Quibdo (Choco capital) pastoral vicar Sterlin Londoño and the parish priest of St. John the Apostle, Alvaro Mosquera, and comes just days after the peace process was rejected by the plebiscite in a referendum.
Despite the ongoing divisions between those who supported the peace agreement and those rejecting the conditions as a breach of justice, the Nobel Prize recognized Santos’ efforts to take the peace process forward and negotiate to end the 52-year-long armed conflict with the rural Marxist guerrillas.