The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship expresses its solidarity with the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IPC) — the Presbyterian Church of Colombia — and joins them in denouncing the most recent death threats made by an armed group called the Aguiles Negras (Black Eagles) against social leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, and members of JUSTAPAZ.
PPF has been in relationship with the IPC since 2005 and has been sending nonviolent accompaniers from the US to Colombia for a month at a time since 2006. We, like many, had hoped that the signing of the Peace Accords would bring about the kind of peace with justice that Colombia has longed for in its over six decades of civil war. However, we have seen in recent months that death threats against social leaders are increasing, and it is with faith and resolve that we continue to accompany the IPC and support the work that they are doing to build peace in Colombia.
Rev Diego Higuita Arango, General Secretary of the IPC says this: “With profound sadness and worry we see how the violent actors try to silence the voices of those who defend life. For this reason, as a church, as sisters and brothers in faith, we call upon people to join us in solidarity and prayer for the people who are being threatened and persecuted, that we echo this in our congregations and in acts of faith and solidarity, calling out to God in this difficult moment in Colombia and in particular for the heightened risk for people who defend life and peace.”
[“Con profunda tristeza y preocupación vemos como los violentos pretenden apagar las voces de quienes defienden la vida. Es por eso que como Iglesia, hermanos y hermanas en la fe les hacemos un llamado para que nos unamos en oración solidaria por todas las personas que están siendo amenazadas y perseguidas, que también podamos hacer eco en nuestras congregaciones y en actos de fe y solidaridad, clamemos a Dios por este momento difícil de Colombia y en particular por el alto riesgo de las personas que defienden la vida y la paz.”]
As Christians, we know that it is our calling to support our Colombian siblings in every way that we can, because we are bound together through Christ. For those of us who are US citizens, our solidarity is also an act of repentance for the ways that our government–our tax money–has destabilized Colombia over the last 6 decades, funding the government violence and creating economic and military policies that hurt the majority of Colombians. We also confess that the same has been the case for much of the so-called Private sector investment in Colombia, most notably the fossil fuel extractive industry.
One of the threatened groups is JUSTAPAZ, a Mennonite organization in Colombia with whom the IPC is a partner. JUSTAPAZ makes an “urgent call to pray for peace in Colombia and to support those who work for truth, justice, and holistic reparation for victims and an end to violent acts. Now is the time for dialogue, to complete and implement the Peace Accords and continue building social, cultural, political, and environmental consensus to bring about peace in the territories.”
[Hacen un llamado urgente a orar por la paz de Colombia y movilizarse en favor de los esfuerzos de quienes buscamos la verdad, la justicia, la reparación integral de las víctimas y la no repetición de los hechos de violencia. Es tiempo de dialogar, de cumplir e implementar los acuerdos de paz y seguir construyendo consensos sociales, culturales, políticos y ambientales para hacer realidad las paces en los territorios.]
Right now, our partners are asking for prayer. A PPF representative is trying to schedule a visit to the US Embassy in Bogota next week to express our concerns and urge them to denounce the violence and do everything in their power to protect those who are being threatened. We will update you if further action is asked of us. In the meantime, please pray for our Colombian siblings on your own and in your churches and consider joining the upcoming training and discernment event to serve as an accompanier through the Colombia Accompaniment Program. The training will be held in Tucson, AZ October 5-8.
For some more background on the situation, here is an article in English by Colombia Reports about the death threats. There was also a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing yesterday, July 19, on Peace and Victims’ Rights in Colombia. Background information and a video recording of the hearing can be found here.
In hope and solidarity,
Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, PPF Co-Moderator
Rev. Aric Clark, PPF Co-Moderator
Rev. Emily Brewer, PPF Executive Director