Religion and the Social Reconstruction of Memory Amid Violence in Bojayá, Chocó (Colombia): Creating Transitional Justice from Below



The conflict in Colombia is one of the most prolonged in the hemisphere; but in 2005 transitional justice mechanisms started to be implemented that facilitated the demobilization of paramilitary groups. This process has been criticized for being a thin transition and not appropriately integrating victims’ voices. Peace initiatives have also been promoted at the local level. The case studied in is a massacre that occurred in 2002 in a Catholic church in the village of Chocó. I focus on the social construction of memory of the massacre and compare the political uses of memory in versions produced by the government and the local church. Interviews were conducted in 2012. The data were analyzed within the sociology of peace paradigm. I start with a brief explanation of the conflict in Colombia and Chocó and explore the relationship between religion and the language of transitional justice through reconciliation, forgiveness, hope, and truth. I argue that the role of religion in the case of Bojayá is about bringing to the public arena private emotions related to experiences of suffering, resistance and the search for truth. This relationship is analyzed in Afro-Colombian religious traditions, such as mala muerte, which is an affliction that occurs when the appropriate funerary rituals have not taken place and in the local church. The Diocese of Quibdó placed the struggle for justice in a biblical context that related it to the struggle of the oppressed victims against the oppressor. Such narrative allows victims to interpret their history in terms of a chain of memory that offers hope. The local church combines economic communitarian work inspired by their option for the poor with the denunciation of crimes against human rights and the defense of the memory of victims. This combination makes them strong peace supporters.


Conflict in Colombia Massacre of Bojayá Social memory Religious peacebuilding Religion and transitional justice 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and the Compromise after Conflict Research ProgrammeUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenScotland, UK

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