Colombia’s Cry for Peace
“Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NRSV)
Dear sisters and brothers,
We invite you to direct your eyes on Colombia’s social upheaval and on the government’s murderous response against the people who express their discontent. With the interest that we see and hear firsthand what is happening in Colombia and a motivating response to the cry for help, we give voice to the Colombian counterparts of the Christian Continental Network for Peace (RECONPAZ).
Let us start with the wider context of the crisis. We asked Betty Ruth Lozano, research director of the Baptist University Bautista Foundation (UNIBAUTISTA) in Cali, what is the reason for this social discontent of the Colombian people? She shared that the social discontent has its origin in dire circumstances, such as the murders of social leaders, human rights defenders, those demobilized from the war, and other historically marginalized sectors. Since the signing of the Peace Accords in 2016, massacres of Afro-descendants and indigenous people, gendercides, forced displacements, threats and disappearances have not ceased. Faced with this atrocious violence, aggravated by more than 40 years of a neoliberal economy, systematic impoverishment, and mishandling of the pandemic, it was to be expected that the Colombian people would come out to express their opposition to the economic measures of the government of President Iván Duque Márquez.
RECONPAZ arranged its Continental Pulse platform for our fellow Colombians to express their voice, and by hearing them, it is confirmed that the crises awaken forbidden energies. In the case of Colombia, the youths rise as actors, unquestionable heroism, illuminating hope.
Luis Miguel Caviedes, pastor of the Siloé Methodist Church, graduate of the UNIBAUTISTA, presenter at the Continental Pulse and when approached by Puerto Resistencia, stressed the youths, with their music and art, redefine the senses and forge a new culture. Now the young, a roadblock point with the intention to create processes for transformation, celebrate open meetings and permanent assemblies, to discuss the situations of corruption, injustices, and national reforms that harm the Colombian people. It is there that young people begin to realize their rights and look at themselves as defenders of life.
The youths lead an uprising that demands health, work, and education, as a challenge to tax reform and another to health that the government intended to impose. The Colombian youth stand out as an intense light in the popular mobilization that has been going on for two months since the date it began, April 28, 2021.
The government of President Duque Márquez, instead of attending to the legitimate demands of the people, deployed a brutal military force against the citizens who protested on the streets.
From Puerto Resistencia, Luis Miguel said, “this place is surrounded by the ESMAD police force (Mobile Anti-Riot Squad, Spanish acronym) with two tanks and soldiers in the surrounding neighborhoods. A military helicopter passes by every day to recognize the people who are demonstrating here. Today and during the morning hours, homes are raided in which the lives of young people were safeguarded from being attacked, persecuted, shot, and threatened with death by state forces. On the shields of the monument, there are many dead with the faces of the young people that the public forces murdered in the City of Cali. Despite that, they play with our psyche to induce terrifying fear; with their murders, raids, and legal charges against innocent people, we are standing up, adding the demand for a guarantee for life to our initial demands.”
Pablo Moreno, Rector of UNIBAUTISTA and leader of the Evangelical Council of Colombia´s Peace and Justice Commission, a longstanding Partner of Global Ministries, shared that the national government has delayed the negotiations. With that, they are contradicting some of its officials who tried to establish a dialogue table between the local government of the City of Cali and the leaders on the front line of the resistance movement. Negotiations began, and it was agreed to provide measures to guarantee the lives and protection of the demonstrators. However, the dialogues and negotiations were canceled. So, the repression has become more significant, taking a terroristic turn, in which armed civilians chased and shoot at the population from vans with dark glass.
Cry for Help
In that Continental Pulse, Jenny Neme Neiva, a Christian social leader and former Executive Director of JUSTAPAZ, another Global Ministries’ Partner in Colombia, forcefully expressed that cry for help:
“As in other crises, we need the support from the international community because the government intentionally misrepresents what is happening in the country. Churches and human rights organizations can help us to show that there is state repression in Colombia and that the rights enshrined in the Colombian Constitution are not respected. This prophetic voice must be heard in the various States, the UN Security Council, the organizations that guarantee human rights, so that the State takes responsibility for its action, defend, and protect the citizenry.”
RECONPAZ heard Colombia’s cry, “the government is killing us,” and endorsed UNIBAUTISTA’s crisis statements, and sought to make them heard through public prayers in front of the embassies and consulates of the network’s member countries, in which the words were read, and the President of Colombia was sent through Colombian diplomacy.
In the face of the Colombian cry, what will you do?
In closing this communication, we make it known that Luis Miguel suffers from threats and intimidation and that his life is at risk. We invited you to respond to the tense and dangerous situation in Colombia for him and the young people. Let us protect the leaders of the Siloé Methodist Church, the Justice and Peace Commission, UNIBAUTISTA, and other organizations that are the testimony of a prophetic church that reads the context and accompanies the people in demanding just laws and condemning unjust measures. It is the Colombian people’s cry for help.
Take Action today and call for the suspension of aid to the Colombian police until the brutality stops and for protection for those who are protesting and advocating for social change in Colombia, especially Pastor Luis Miguel Caviedes Moreno, who has experienced multiple assassination attempts and death threats, and members of the Peace Commission of the Evangelical Council of Colombia (CEDECOL) who are on the front lines of the social protest.