Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
My wife and I were deeply touched to be invited to join you today to honour the victims of civil conflict in Colombia.
It is an immense tragedy that violence has cast such a long shadow across the whole of this remarkable country for the past five decades. Many of you here today will have experienced unimaginable suffering, and our hearts go out to you as you struggle to come to terms with all that has happened to you and your loved ones.
I suspect that many of you will probably not know that my own much-loved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, and members of his family including one of my godsons were murdered in Northern Ireland just over thirty years ago. So I feel I do understand something of the bewildering and soul-destroying anguish that so many of you have had to endure.
It is my earnest hope and prayer that Colombia will soon find a lasting and durable peace. Of course, as we have learnt in the U.K.from the Northern Ireland Peace Process, and the Good Friday Agreement, building conditions for peace takes time and there are pitfalls along the way. Great political and moral leadership is required from all parties to the conflict; and from society at large, which must also strongly feel the need for truth, reconciliation and forgiveness.
It is enormously encouraging to see victims participating directly in the Havana negotiations, speaking of their experiences and expressing what they would like to see from a peace agreement. Recent threats to those bold enough to participate in this process must be yet another dreadful burden for those affected. I can only pray, however, that they will not undermine the determination and the courage required to build a lasting peace.
The dignity of those we have met and listened to today is a truly inspiring tribute to the human spirit. Despite the appalling suffering that victims have endured, they are witness to humanity's ability to overcome great tragedy and to move forward. In addition to compassion, there is no doubt that victims will require considerable support so that they are able rebuild their lives and thereby heal the scars of the last half century.
As one who has himself experienced the intense despair caused by the consequences of violence, it is my fervent hope that Colombians might find the strength to continue cultivating a commitment to peace and reconciliation in their own hearts. For this must surely be the key to a lasting solution in Colombia.