Christian Youth Workers Slain In Columbia; "Wage Peace" Campaign at Critical Stage

Saturday, March 10, 2001

SANTA ANA, Ca. (ANS) -- As a result of continued escalating violence, Open Doors USA President and CEO, Terry Madison, is urging Christians around the world to join in the "Wage Peace Upon Colombia" prayer campaign on July 28.

As evidence of the ongoing tragedies facing Colombia's Christians, the partially decomposed body of Antonio Renteria, 22, son of evangelical Inter-American Church pastor, Ederino Renteria, was discovered on June 8, after an anonymous tip led family members to an unmarked grave. An unidentified group of heavily armed terrorists had abducted Antonio from the Renteria home, located in Fraguas, Antioquia, the last week of May.

According to Julio Cesar Cabrera, President of the Association of Inter-American Churches, half of the 450 inhabitants of Fraguas, are members of the Inter-American Church. Guerrilla and paramilitary factions have discovered that evangelical believers in the area renounce violence, making it difficult for these groups to attract recruits to their respective forces. Cabrera told Compass Direct News Service, "The church that is in the middle of the conflict is being persecuted because of the evangelistic role it is playing. Every person who hears a presentation of the gospel and is brought to the feet of Jesus lays down his weapons. Therefore, armed groups consider the church a real enemy to the cause, especially leftist groups."

A few weeks after Renteria's murder, on June 17, Joni Palacio, 20, an active youth worker and daughter of Inter-American Church representative Francisca Palacio, was shot and died at 5:00 p.m. that day. No one has claimed responsibility for her murder.

"This is a critical time for the church in Colombia," said Madison, renewing his call for Christians worldwide to stand with their Colombian brothers and sisters in prayer. "We receive continual reports from pastors and church leaders under severe threat. Their stand against violence has resulted in murder, kidnappings, and the loss of their land and homes. They need our support; they need our prayers."

The campaign calls for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for Colombia on Saturday, July 28, 2001. Participants are encouraged to pray for:

*Peace-for the government and armed groups to express peace, for the diminished use of deadly weapons, and the evangelical church to be included in the peace process;

*Justice-the causes of the conflict to be replaced with the justice of God;

*Conversion-for key leaders of the civil conflict to surrender their lives to God and lead the vision for peace;

*Forgiveness and Restoration-in the hearts of those who have endured attack and oppression that the cycle of violence will not continue.

Colombia has been engaged in a counterinsurgency war over the past several decades, tracing back to its last civil war, La Violencia (1948-1953). Suffering an economic crisis, an unemployment rate of over 20 percent (1999), and an inflation rate of 17 percent, the people have resorted to drug trafficking and political upheaval. The war between the State forces and paramilitary against two major guerrilla forces, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and ELN (National Liberation Army) has resulted in over 100,000 civilian deaths and over 2 million displaced internal refugees.

To request free materials about the "Wage Peace Upon Colombia" prayer campaign, or for more information on the ministry of Open Doors, write: Open Doors with Brother Andrew, Post Office Box 27001, Santa Ana, CA 92799 or call 888-5-BIBLE (888-524-2535). The Open Doors USA website can be found at