Mennonite Church Canada logo
Location:
News » Releases » Urgent Action
 

Urgent Action on behalf of RICARDO ESQUIVIA

   

January 16, 2004

Today comes an urgent request from the Colombian Mennonite Church to Mennonite Church Canada to do what we can to avert attempts to arrest Colombian Mennonite Church leader Ricardo Esquiva. Below you will find the information we received regarding this call for action. Your prompt pleadings to officials may prevent his arrest. Act as you feel led.

MC Canada letter of support for RICARDO ESQUIVIA BALLESTAS sent to government authorities Jan 16, 2004.

Risk of arrest and imprisonment on false charges by the Colombian government.

Bogotá, 15 January 2004

Dear Sisters and Brothers.

May the Gospel of peace of Jesus Christ guide your lives in the path of justice and peace.

We write to inform you of the imminent threat by the Colombian government against the freedom of RICARDO ESQUIVIA BALLESTAS and request urgent action.

The current administration of President Alvaro Uribe Vélez has been implementing a policy of all out war against the guerrilla and has promised to win. In keeping with this policy, so-called security measures have been increased, as has the overall military apparatus. This includes a curtailment of Constitutional protection for human rights and due process.

We, as churches, have been working for human rights and peace through a variety of initiatives, including Justapaz and the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace of the Evangelical Council of Churches of Colombia, Cedecol. We attend victims of the violent conflict, train people of the churches, denounce abuses, and give witness to a new society of justice and peace. Last year the Colombian churches (non-Roman Catholic) suffered the assassination of more than 40 pastors and church leaders, who left behind a great number of widows and orphans.

RICARDO ESQUIVIA has been director of Justapaz and is currently national coordinator of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace, as well as being vice-president of Cedecol. We have now received information from a variety of sources that government authorities are building a case based on fabricated and false evidence to arrest RICARDO and accuse him of being a member of the guerrilla, thus keeping him from carrying out his work. As part of this plan, their intention appears to be to use paid informants. This is similar to the course of action used against many other leaders of social movements, labor leaders and members of NGO’s, who are now under arrest.

We ask that you support us by participating in this international urgent action campaign to denounce these activities by Colombian authorities. By unmasking their plan and demonstrating international support, we seek to keep the Colombian government from carrying out its plan and protect our brother and friend, RICARDO ESQUIVIA.

We ask that you:

  • Share this information with your churches, organizations and communities, and hold the matter in your prayers.
  • Write an urgent action letter and fax it immediately to the people listed below. To assist in this, we are including some points to include in such a letter. Or, if you do not have time to draft your own, we are sending a sample letter that you can use.
  • Send copies to your Congressional representatives or members of Parliament with a note of explanation, and ask that they also apply pressure on Colombian authorities. If you do so, please indicate in your letters to the Colombian officials that you are copying your elected government representatives (cc: Senator…..,).

Finally, we would appreciate receiving a (blind) email copy of your letter at justapaz@colnodo.apc.org

Your support, brothers and sisters, is very important, because the Colombian government is sensitive and attentive to international opinion—perhaps above all else. Help us to save RICARDO´s life, liberty and work.

We thank you in advance for your collaboration.

With gratitude,

Peter Stucky, President of the Mennonite Church of Colombia

Jenny Neme, Interim Co-Director of Justapaz


 

POINTS FOR AN URGENT ACTION LETTER:

We ask that you fax, call, or telegram the Colombian officials listed below. Address, in your own words, the following points:

  • Salutation: Dear ....... (Mr. President, Admiral, Attorney General, etc....)
  • A greeting, in which you express your prayers and support for initiatives for peace with justice in Colombia.
  • State that you have received unconfirmed information that Colombian authorities are planning for the arrest of RICARDO ESQUIVIA on fabricated charges that he is a member of the guerrilla group, FARC; and that this plan includes using persons who have demobilized from armed groups, who will testify false information.
  • Add to this, in your own words, that you are acquainted with RICARDO ESQUIVIA, his long-time membership in the Mennonite Church, a historic peace church, and know of his Christian commitment and of his activities for peace in Colombia.
  • It could be useful to add the idea that you are convinced that what Colombian authorities are planning, if they indeed are doing so, is a perverse fabrication totally devoid of truth. You could add that for the Colombian government to act in such a manner is in complete contradiction with the commitments that the Colombian government has made nationally and internationally in defense of and respect for human rights. As well, such an action would be in violation of the right of freedom of worship.
  • Recognition of the presence of the Evangelical (Protestant) churches in Colombia, and of their work to address human needs, and in fostering holistic human development and sustainable peace. Add also that you understand that they have engaged in mediation for humanitarian dialogues with the various armed groups that operate in the country, and that they have been quite straightforward in this intention. You could cite the fact that these illegal groups assassinated over 40 pastors and leaders of these churches in 2003 alone.
  • Express your support for the work of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace (formerly Commission on Human Rights and Peace) of the Evangelical Council of Churches of Colombia, Cedecol, (Comisión de Restauración, Vida y Paz del Consejo Evangélico de Colombia, CEDECOL), which is coordinated by RICARDO ESQUIVIA BALLESTAS, a member of the Mennonite Church of Colombia and vice-president of Cedecol. And your support for the work of JUSTAPAZ, the Christian Center for Justice, Peace and Non-violent Action of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, of which he has been director for the past 12 years.
  • Request that the Colombian government respect and guarantee the right of Evangelical (Protestant) churches in the peace processes in Colombia. Urge Colombian authorities to protect the lives and liberty of all members of churches, and in particular the rights of RICARDO ESQUIVIA BALLESTAS.

 


SEND TO:

Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON, Canada
K1A 0G2

Email: enqserv@dfait-maeci.gc.ca

Paul Martin
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa
K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900

Email: pm@pm.gc.ca

(Country code included for all numbers. )
ALVARO URIBE VALEZ
President of Colombia
Cra. 8 N. 7-26, Palacio de Nariño
Santa fe de Bogotá
Fax: 011 (571) 342-0592

LUIS CARLOS RESTREPO
High Commissioner for Peace
Santa fe de Bogotá, Colombia.
Fax: 011 (571) 565-7688

SABAS PRETEL DE LA VEGA
Minister of the Interior
Santa fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Fax: 011 (571) 560-4630

CARLOS ALBERTO OSPINA
Commander General of the Armed Forces
Santa fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Tel: 011 (571) 315-0111
Fax: 011 (571) 266-0298

LUIS CAMILO OSORIO
Attorney General
Diagonal 22B N. 52-01
Santa fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Telefax: 011 (571) 570-2000 (request fax line)

CARLOS FRANCO ECHAVARRIA
Director of Presidential Program for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
Santa fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Tel: 011 (571) 336-0311, 011 (571) 444-2120
Fax: 342-9355, 571 566-2387
JORGE NOGERA COTES
Director of the Department of Security Administration (DAS)
Santa fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Telefax: 011 (571) 408-8460 (request fax line)

WILLIAM WOOD
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia
Bogotá, Colombia
Tel: 011 (571) 315-2112
Fax: 011 (571) 315-2038

(Below--within the United States)
MICHAEL KOZAK
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington DC
Tel: 202-647-2570
Fax: 202- 647-5283

LUIS ALBERTO MORENO:
Colombian Ambassador to the United States
Washington DC
Tel: 202-387-8338
Fax: 202-232-8643


SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ....... (Mr President, Admiral, Attorney General, etc....)

May the Gospel of peace of Jesus Christ guide your lives on the path of justice and peace.

I write with grave concern for the freedom and human rights of RICARDO ESQUIVIA, church leader and veteran peace maker. I have received unconfirmed information that Colombian authorities are planning to arrest RICARDO ESQUIVIA on fabricated charges that he is a member the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) by using persons who have demobilized from armed groups to provide false testimony against him. I am well acquainted with RICARDO ESQUIVIA, and I know of his Christian commitment and his work towards a non-violent resolution to the conflict in Colombia. I am fully convinced that what Colombian authorities are planning, if they indeed are doing so, is a perverse fabrication totally devoid of truth. His arrest would completely contradict the commitments that the Colombian government has made nationally and internationally in defense of human rights.

I am also concerned that Ricardo Esquivia´s arrest would be in violation of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of worship. I am aware of the presence of the Evangelical (Protestant) churches of Colombia and of their work at a national level in fostering a network for holistic human development and sustainable peace. They have been open about their commitment to engage in mediation and humanitarian dialogues with the various armed groups that operate in the country. Over 40 pastors and leaders of these churches have been assassinated in 2003 alone by these illegal groups.

I support the work of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace (formerly Commission on Human Rights and Peace) of the Evangelical Council of Churches of Colombia, Cedecol, (Comisión de Restauración, Vida y Paz del Consejo Evangélico de Colombia, CEDECOL), coordinated by RICARDO ESQUIVIA BALLESTAS, a member of the Mennonite Church of Colombia and vice-president of Cedecol. I also support the work of JUSTAPAZ, the Christian Center for Justice, Peace and Non-violent Action of the Mennonite Church in Colombia, of which he has been director during the past twelve years.

I urge your government to respect and guarantee the right of Evangelical (Protestant) churches in the peace processes in Colombia.

I request your protection of the lives and liberty of all members of churches, and in particular the rights of my brother and friend, RICARDO ESQUIVIA BALLESTAS.

Sincerely