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Peace workers threatened with assassination

   
 
Donna Meyer, a CPT Colombia delegation member, read a litany of resistance against violence.
   

Winnipeg, Man.—An August 12, 2002 Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) news release (attached below) reported a threat by armed groups in Colombia to kill a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Colombia.

Mennonite Church Canada is a supporting denomination of CPT and takes this threat seriously. We are calling congregations and individuals in MC Canada to engage in prayer and action on behalf of the CPT team (Three Canadians: Lisa Martens (Winnipeg), William Payne (Toronto), Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, Illinois) Carol Spring (Palo Alto, California) Charles Spring (Palo Alto, California) and the Colombian people.

We want to remember the continued and frequent violence in Colombia and the regular threats and intimidation many local civilians face. We encourage pastors and worship leaders to include a prayer this Sunday (August 18) and to highlight the press release details, as appropriate. Please also consider the other actions noted below.

Prayer

This prayer may be used as a focus for our thoughts and action the coming days and for possible use this coming Sunday (August 18).

God of life and author of peace, today we are reminded of the violence in the world, specifically in Colombia, and the ever-present threat of intimidation and death. We pray for peace. Your peace. We pray for an end to the violence. For non-violent, creative, courageous solutions. We pray for the many Colombian civilians who weep for loved ones murdered during 50 years of war.

In that context we are reminded of many in the Colombian church and many others who take courageous stands for justice and peace, including the members of Christian Peacemaker Teams. We acknowledge the courageous work of Scott Kerr, Carol Spring, Charles Spring, Lisa Martens, William Payne, Matt Schaaf today. As their witness for peace, their stand for justice becomes ever more poignant, even finding hostile opposition, we entrust their presence, their witness, their lives to your care and protection. We pray for their safety, for wisdom in difficulty, and we pray that the love they represent might bring transformation and lasting peace.

We also pray that as a supporting church we be faithful to your call of peace. That as Christian peacemakers in Canada, we pray and act, even taking risks for peace, never forgetting but always upholding our brothers and sisters in Colombia and around the world who suffer injustice. May we renew our own commitment to Christ’s way of peace.

Amen.

Arlyn Friesen Epp

For background information on CPT and its work in Colombia, see http://www.cpt.org/colombia/colombia.php.

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POSSIBLE PLAN TO KILL A MEMBER OF CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER TEAMS IN COLOMBIA

Barrancabermeja,Colombia – Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has recently learned that members of an illegal right-wing self-defense organization, commonly known as the "paramilitary," may have a plan to kill a member of the CPT team in central Colombia.

Through a reliable source, CPT learned late last week that the paramilitary has been unhappy with public statements that CPT has made concerning the actions of the paramilitary and is considering killing a CPT volunteer in response. CPT has denounced violence and human rights abuses committed by all armed actors operating in Colombia (including the paramilitary, the guerrilla and the state armed forces).

CPT Colombia team member William Payne, 39, from Toronto ON, said, "The possibility of violence being directed against a member of CPT has been discussed here in a spirit of prayer and commitment to the gospel of life for all Colombian people.Our team prays for those who make such threats."

Information about this threat has been shared with churches around the world, with U.S. and Canadian Embassies, and other relevant government bodies and organizations.

CPT’s team in Barrancabermeja plans to continue its work, with additional precautions, but has no intention to evacuate. CPT’s primary focus will continue to be accompaniment of the civilian population in the nearby Opon Township and in the Cimitarra Valley who live in constant danger because of the cycle of violence that grips Colombia.

"We will continue to ask all armed actors to lay down their weapons and enter into the creative effort of searching for nonviolent solutions to their problems," stated CPT worker Lisa Martens, 25, from Winnipeg MB, as she left to accompany the rural population outside Barrancabermeja.
The CPT team has issued a "Statement of Conviction" to explain the framework for its presence in Colombia (see below). CPT is also asking people to find creative ways to denounce the violence of the paramilitary and all armed actors in Colombia, violence that is generally directed at the most vulnerable.

CPT is sponsored by Mennonite and Brethren congregations, Friends’ meetings, and Christians from other denominations. It has maintained a violence-reduction team in central Colombia since February 2001 at the invitation of the Colombian Mennonite Church.

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STATEMENT OF CONVICTION
Christian Peacemaker Teams Colombia

We would like our wishes, as stated below, to be respected in the event that members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Colombia are harmed or killed by any of the armed groups currently targeting civilians. Whatever happens in the coming days or months, we believe life will ultimately claim victory over death, and what we are sowing in tears we will one day reap with songs of joy (Psalm 126).

Should we be caught in the middle of a conflict situation or taken hostage, we reject the use of force to save our lives. In the event that we die as a result of violent action, we reject the use of violence to punish the people who killed us. We ask that people regard our deaths as no more tragic than the murders of tens of thousands of Colombians over the past fifty years and we ask that all legal nonviolent means be taken to ensure that these deaths do not continue.

All of us who are part of CPT recognize there are certain risks inherent in this work. We believe that until people committed to nonviolence are willing to take the same risks for peace that soldiers are willing to take for war, people will always choose violence as the most viable solution to their problems.

If we are harmed, we ask that the perpetrators be held accountable for their actions. At the same time, we ask that people who care about us look into the root causes of violence found amongst oppressed peoples struggling for liberation, justice and peace. If more blood is shed on our account, then our deaths will have been in vain.

If we are killed, we hope that our deaths will promote the sort of soul-searching that leads to a rejection of armed conflict characteristic of the violence here. Following the central tenet of our faith, we refuse to hate the people who harm us (Matthew 5). We believe that those best able to love their enemies will ultimately emerge as victors in this bloody conflict.

Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, Illinois, U.S.A.)
Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA)
William Payne (Toronto, Ontario, CANADA)
Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA)
Carol Spring (Palo Alto, California, U.S.A.)
Charles Spring (Palo Alto, California, U.S.A.)

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ACTION IDEAS FOR PEOPLE IN NORTH AMERICA WHO WISH TO SUPPORT THE CPT TEAM AT THIS TIME:

Any action (phone calls, letters, emails, prayer, public witness) which draw attention to the violence in the area around Barrancabermeja and to the threat of violence directed against members of Christian Peacemaker Teams are much appreciated at this time. We believe that it is important to remind the Colombian government that it is their role to make sure that nationals and internationals do not become victims of violence perpetrated by illegal armed groups. Actions done collectively by church communities are especially encouraged.

Action suggestions:

  1. Phone or write one or more people (Member of parliament, Canadian embassy in Colombia, Colombia’s embassy or consulate closest to you, the Colombian president, etc). Call for nonviolent measures to make life safer for the civilian population in the Opon township and the Cimitarra Valley, and for internationals working in these areas.

  2. Contact U.S. government representatives and ask for the closing of the U.S. Army School of the Americas. This is the school where many Colombian soldiers have been trained in methods that continue to harm the Colombian civilian population.

  3. Gather together with other concerned people in some public place (in front of the Colombian consulate or embassy or some other symbolic place) for a time of prayer. Read the CPT team’s statement of conviction. Invite the local media.

  4. Join an upcoming CPT delegation to Colombia or sponsor someone else to participate. The next delegation is October 4-16, 2002.

  5. Pray.

Contact information:

  • Canadian Parliament: Look for parliamentarian’s contact info. at http://www.parl.gc.ca/

  • Canadian Embassy in Bogota: Tel. 011-57-1-657-9800 Fax 011-57-1-657-9910

  • National Police in Barrancabermeja: 011-57-7-622-3828

  • Barrancabermeja – city hall: 011-57-7-621-4809

  • President of Colombia: Alvaro Uribe, Palacio de Narino, Carrera 8 No. 7-26
    Santafe de Bogota, Colombia auribe@presidencia.gov.co

  • Ejercito Nacional (Colombian Army), Bogota, Colombia: Ejercito Nacional: Av. El Dorado Cra.52 CAN Bogota, Colombia info@ejercito.mil.co

  • Christian Peacemaker Teams
    Canada Office
    Tel (416) 423-5525
    Fax (416) 423-9213