From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[ENS] Colombias small Protestant communities targeted says report
"Mika Larson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mon, 25 Aug 2003 17:41:03 -0400
Colombia's small Protestant communities targeted says report
by Chris Herlinger
Ecumenical News International
[ENS] New York, 22 August (ENI) * Members of Colombia's small Protestant
communities continue to be targets in Colombia's ongoing civil war, a
new report shows.
At least 38 Protestant clergy, lay leaders or church members have been
killed in the first half of 2003, according to the report, addressed to
the "global family of faith," and issued to coincide this month with the
completion of Alvaro Uribe's first year as president of Colombia.
The report was written by Ricardo Esquivia, a prominent Mennonite peace
activist in Colombia, who is a well-known official of the Evangelical
Council of Colombian Churches, a coalition of Protestant churches
working in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country.
Esquivia, writing on behalf of the Colombia church council, said
civilians, particularly in rural areas, continue to be the primary
victims of the war. The 40-year conflict involves the US-backed
Colombian military, leftist guerrilla groups trying to overthrow the
country's government, various right-wing paramilitary groups and private
The war is believed to cause at least 30 000 deaths annually and has
resulted in the forced displacement within Colombia of some 3 million
persons, one of the highest rates of internal displacement in the world.
Protestant Christians, Esquivia said, "as part of the civilian
population, are not exempt from this situation and have been greatly
affected by this wave of injustice, violence and intensification of
Clergy, church leaders and members - many from small evangelical or
Pentecostal churches in poor, rural communities - are often targets
because they offer assistance to those from war-affected areas. They
face retaliation for such help from paramilitary and guerrilla groups
when those areas are under control of different armed factions.
Esquivia's report notes that Protestant church leaders and members have
been killed in various parts of the country by members of both armed
left-wing and right-wing groups.
Most victims are young - under 40 - and the youngest, Orgando Ropero, a
member of a Pentecostal church in Arauca, in oil-rich north-eastern
Colombia, was nine years old at the time of his death. He was killed on
17 April when a leftist guerrilla gave him the equivalent of 35 US cents
to carry a bomb and place it front of a local police station. The bomb
went off, killing the boy.
Such acts are said to have made Uribe's policies against guerrilla
forces popular in war-weary Colombia. But Esquivia in his report
criticised the government, saying its efforts to step up the war against
the leftist guerrilla forces "has begun to consume the majority of the
economic and political resources available to the government" and has
resulted in "restricting civil democratic freedoms." [449 words]
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