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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.
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:
Finally, we would appreciate receiving a (blind) email copy of your letter at firstname.lastname@example.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.
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:
Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs
(Country code included for all numbers. )
LUIS CARLOS RESTREPO
SABAS PRETEL DE LA VEGA
CARLOS ALBERTO OSPINA
LUIS CAMILO OSORIO
CARLOS FRANCO ECHAVARRIA
(Below--within the United States)
LUIS ALBERTO MORENO:
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.