Colombian Pastor Dies in Bomb Explosion

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Sunday night attack kills young Mennonite minister at bus stop.

by David Miller

MIAMI, December 2, 2004(Compass) -- Javier Segura, the 31-year-old pastor of a Mennonite church located in the La Victoria neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia, died instantly Sunday night, November 28, when a bomb detonated outside a public building near downtown Bogotá. The minister was the only fatality in the 10 p.m. terrorist attack in which six other people suffered injuries.

Segura had just said goodbye to his fiancée, Sandra Figueroa, and was waiting for public transportation to return to his home, where he lived with his elderly parents.

Unknown assailants had placed the bomb beside a parking obstacle on the sidewalk in front of a municipal building in the borough of Rafael Uribe.

According to the Spanish-language news service ALC, initial statements from investigating police implicated Segura himself as one of the bombers. However, the allegation was later withdrawn.

“He was a person completely dedicated to his work as a pastor, and it occupied all his time,” Figueroa said.

A member of the Sinaí Mennonite Church located just a few blocks from the site of the bombing, Segura had pastored the La Victoria congregation since January. Trained by veteran Mennonite pastor Islandes Lozada, Segura was known for his gift of working with young people.

Sources say he was much loved by members of the La Victoria congregation, a young church in the populous, working-class sector of Bogotá.

In a public statement, the Colombian Mennonite Church said it “profoundly laments this enormous loss, and prays that his death may be fertile and produce much fruit.”

“People learn to live with the danger,” said Peter Stucky, president of the Colombian Mennonite Church, “but you never expect to be the victim, particularly in a city of seven million or more people.

“All the same, it’s very painful when these things come close and affect the church.”

Government officials have offered a 100 million peso ($40,450) reward for information leading to the capture of the bombers.

Following Segura’s funeral service yesterday, mourners walked in procession with the casket from the Sinai church to the location of his death several blocks away. The procession of local Mennonite congregations carrying white balloons and signs expressing messages of peace halted two lanes of traffic on a major city street.

At the municipality building where the bomb took Segura’s life, Stucky stated publicly that Segura was not a terrorist, but an innocent victim of the war in Colombia.

The local municipal mayor left his office to show his support of the public action.

Bombs in Colombian cities are an unfortunate fact of life in this country torn apart by insurgent groups, paramilitaries, drug traffickers and common criminals.

In the past two years, evangelical church leaders have documented the deaths of more than 400 Christians in violent incidents. Of those, 65 were pastors or church leaders.

The Colombian Mennonite Church has worked actively during the last 20 years to promote a nonviolent witness through the evangelical Protestant churches in the country of 44 million.

In the same week of Segura’s murder, a Mennonite delegation of about 10 people was visiting the city of Barrancabermeja and the communities along the Opon River to learn more about nonviolent peace witness.

Due to constant dangers and threats, Justapaz, the church’s center for justice, peace and nonviolent action, offers workshops to pastors and church leaders on security precautions and protective measures.