1,000 Guerrilla Children Lay Down Weapons

Seeking Shelter From Church in Colombia

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BOGOTA, Colombia, FEB. 15, 2001 (Zenit.org).- About 1,000 children, many of them attached to the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), have laid down their weapons and asked the Church for help.

Different dioceses of the country are housing them in boarding schools where they can begin to study. The children are in the municipalities of Granada, Uribe and Meta.

Gloria Quiceno, director of the Interior Ministry´s General Program for Reintegration, confirmed the news, although she said she could not say that all who need to be reintegrated in society are former members of the guerrilla force. «There are also children who belong to very poor families, whose parents cannot attend to their needs,» she said.

Quiceno said that this initiative began two years ago with 20 children. Eventually, the number increased to 99, and «today there are close to 1,000 children who are being cared for in [regular] schools and boarding schools,» she said.

She also said that negotiations are taking place with FARC for the formal hand-over of the children. However, if Granada, the diocese of the region, is to take them in, it needs help to guarantee their food and protection, Quiceno added. Hence, she is also appealing to UNICEF, and to the country´s president, Andrés Pastrana.

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