Church Members Killed In Northwest Columbia

Wednesday, January 17, 2001

SANTA ANA (January 17, 2001) -- A Colombian pastor and his family have fled for their lives after ultra-rightist forces killed three members of the pastor's church, reports a church leader in Medellin.

The pastor of a 180-member church left his town, home and possessions the same day that ultra-rightist forces murdered three alleged sympathizers of an insurgent group who attended his church. The town, with a population of about 20,000, is located east of Medellin and lies in a zone claimed by both the ultra-rightists and the insurgents, said a spokesman of an evangelical organization in Medellin.

When insurgent sympathizers or militants become Christians and join a church, "It becomes a problem for the pastor," the spokesman said. (The ultra-rightists) accuse the church of being a refuge for the insurgents. When this happens, the pastor is in danger.

"(The ultra-rightists) said that they were going to kill the pastor, so he had to leave immediately."

After the incident, which occurred around December 1, the pastor, his wife and three small children moved to a secret location in another community. Pastors there are helping them settle temporarily until they can find a permanent home.

The spokesman said that the secrecy was a safety precaution. The ultra-rightists probably won't further threaten the pastor's family because they just wanted them to leave town. But it's unlikely the family will ever be able to safely return home.

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