"Severe Violations" Of Religious Freedom in Colombia

Friday, October 13, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (BosNewsLife) -- A new report details for the first time the extent of religious freedom violations in Colombia, including targeted assassinations of pastors or church leaders, the kidnapping or forced disappearance of at least three others, and the attempted assassination of a pastor that left more that 70 bullets embedded in his body, BosNewsLife monitored Wednesday, October 11.

The report 'A Prophetic Call', was released by and the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace (CRVP), linked to the Colombian Council of Evangelical Churches and a partner of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

It also documents two violent attacks that took place during church services and resulted in four deaths and left 14 worshipers wounded. The report “shows how these violations are being committed by all actors in the armed conflict, including leftist guerrillas, far right paramilitaries and even members of Colombia security forces,” said CSW in a message to BosNewsLife.

The project is the first of its kind in Colombia and is an attempt to document the extent of violations of religious liberty, alongside human rights abuses committed against members of Colombian churches, CSW added. Research began this year and covers a period from January 2004 to the present. Grassroots volunteers from congregations across the country collected the information, which was then added to a national database.


"In addition to the assassinations, the report also details the forced displacement of at least nine church leaders and their families because of their Christian work. Death threats made against at least nine Christian youths and their families after they resisted forced recruitment by the armed groups are also documented," CSW said.

At least five pastors reported receiving threats to them and their families after refusing to use church funds to meet extortion demands made by the various armed groups.

Christian businessmen and women also reported attempts at extortion and threats after they refused to pay. One market stall owner told CSW during a recent visit that "many people pay (the money) because they are afraid and because everyone has to pay. But I have made a decision that I will not turn over my money to pay for activities, including violence and drug trafficking, that I know go against God’s will. This is a radical stance in this country but I know that sometimes Christ calls us to be radical."


CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said that, "Unfortunately, we are not surprised by the numbers in this report. If anything we believe that they represent only a small proportion of violations of religious freedom in Colombia."

Thomas said that "as the project continues…we hope that the true scale of attacks against Christians will become apparent "

He admitted that, "It is easy to become overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation in Colombia," but stressed that "this work is vital in helping both Colombians and citizens of other countries to better understand the specific situation of the Colombian Church, both in terms of its suffering and also in the efforts it is making to bring about positive and lasting transformation in that country." (With reports from Colombia).

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