Colombia's Native Missionaries Refuse To Flee Guerilla Offensive

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tuesday, 22 March 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (BosNewsLife)-- Native Christian missionaries in rural Colombia are refusing to leave despite attacks from guerilla groups which they claim have "randomly confiscated multiple church buildings" and forced hundreds of villagers to flee to major cities, BosNewsLife learned Tuesday, March 22.

"The Lord has called us to share the Gospel with members of the guerrilla groups, that's why we're still here," said one missionary in a statement distributed by US-based Christian Aid Mission (CAM).

It comes as "recent attacks and statements made by members of the [main] leftist rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) indicate that they are not diminishing in strength as many had hoped," said CAM, which claims to represent 700 indigenous ministries with 90,000 native missionaries, many in countries where Americans can not work.

In addition since last month, explosives planted in a hotel killed five people, a major TV and radio network was bombed and an electrical substation was dynamited, news reports said. Even a bus was torched on a major highway after passengers were forcibly removed, The Associated Press (AP) news agency reported recently.

However one native missionary, who was only identified as "Jose" for apparent security reasons, was quoted as saying that several FARC fighters send to spy on churches meetings, "responded to the Gospel" and became Christians.

One commander, who allegedly murdered a man in Jose's congregation several years ago, apparently turned to Christianity after inviting the missionary in his house.


"When I went to another town to share the Gospel, I met [the guerrilla commander]. He was drinking alcohol with people in his guerrilla group, but he recognized me [and] gave me a soda to drink," Jose wrote.

"He asked me to come to his house to pray for his family. That weekend another believer and I went to visit him at his home [to] share the story of salvation....After many times of sharing, they all accepted Jesus Christ as Savior." Jose claimed that "they were baptized in the same river that we had navigated many times to visit them."

Yet, conversions like these can also draw fierce opposition to Christians and guerrilla leaders are angry at how "religion" causes "fighters to drop their weapons", CAM said in a statement to BosNewsLife. In general, FARC and other smaller groups "oppose church planting in areas they control," the organization explained.


"Such is the case in two villages where both pastors were chased from their homes. The congregations must either walk all day on Saturday to attend a service in a nearby village or wait for once-monthly visits from a traveling missionary," CAM said.

Mission leaders in the area are reportedly concerned as the last decade "has been more dangerous" for their ministry than in all 40 years it has been operating, CAM added. Analysts say at least 40,000 people were killed in Colombia's ongoing guerilla warfare in the last ten years.

FARC, which has been fighting for decades to overthrow the government and establish a communist-agrarian state, had initially much support among peasants dissatisfied with landowners and the ruling elite. Some analysts say FARC would govern anyone interested in reforming one of Latin America’s "most unequal societies", in which allegedly 10 percent of the people own 90 percent of the land.

Experts believe the FARC, with some 17,500 members, is active throughout Colombia and headquartered in the south of the country, where it largely governed a region about the size of Switzerland for over 40 years.(With: Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife, BosNewsLife Research and reports from Colombia)