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  • Women from Marcha Patriotica occupy the San Francisco church in Colombia's capital Bogota March 19, 2016.

    Women from Marcha Patriotica occupy the San Francisco church in Colombia's capital Bogota March 19, 2016. | Photo: Twitter : Prensa Rural

Published 19 March 2016

Social movements in Colombia demand that the Catholic church use its influence to condemn the ongoing violence against activists.

More than 100 women from the left-wing movement Marcha Patriotica took over one of the main cathedrals in the Colombian capital Bogota Saturday, demanding that the Catholic church condemn the violence against activists in the country. 

According to the women, 112 members of Marcha Patriotica, both men and women, have been killed since 2012, including four in the month of March alone. 

These four make up part of the 12 social and political activists who have been killed since the beginning of the month.  

Hugs to @marchapatriotica. Real guarantees are required for peace   

Former senator and renowned human rights activist Piedad Cordoba, who was also at the demonstration, said the killings are a product of “the armed ultra-right [movements] through paramilitaries and sectors of the police and the army.”  

The church is a major influence in Colombia, where over 90 percent of the population identify as Catholic. This is why Marcha Patriotica demand that it use its power to condemn this ongoing violence.  

“We have come to the church, the street and the square, to denounce the continuation of a process of political extermination,” said Marcha Patriotica in a statement on their website, adding that “In recent months there has not been a week where tears, rage and helplessness have not reached us.” 

As part of the protest, the women waited outside the San Francisco church wearing white dresses and veils, holding banners and chanting slogans against the state violence. They also marched through the two entrances of the church, throwing rose petals on the ground.

"The state needs to respond to the persecution and growing paramilitarism"

The protesters also highlighted the fact that there are over 300 political prisoners currently being held in Colombian prisons – which are themselves renown for their massive human rights violations – for their activism. 

The violence against activists in the country continues despite the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas in Havana, Cuba. 

IN DEPTH: The Colombian Peace Process Explained

The two sides have been undergoing negotiations for over three years in an attempt to stop the over 50 years of war in the country. They are said to be close to signing a final peace deal, expected to happen by their self-imposed deadline of March 23, however there have been many setbacks, including the recent killings of human rights advocates. 

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