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Protective pastors being dragged into bloody Colombia conflict, report warns

Tue 04 Dec 2018
By Alex Williams

Church leaders trying to intervene in bloody violence perpetrated by armed rebels and gangs in Colombia are themselves becoming targets, a new report has warned.

Pastors speaking out against criminal activities such as trafficking and extortion are sometimes paying with their lives, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said.

The organisation, which advocates for religious freedoms around the world, claimed human rights violations have continued and, in some cases worsened, since the signing of a historic peace deal (pictured above).

 

Spokesperson, Kiri Kankhwende told Premier: "Please pray for the [Colombian] government.

"They signed this peace agreement but they obviously need to do more to make it a real peace across the country; it's not about just an absence of conflict but the presence of justice."

 

The Colombian government signed a pact with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, pictured below) in June, in a bid to draw a 50-year conflict with rebels to an end.

Having recently returned from a fact-finding mission to the South American country, CSW warned that other rebel groups have appeared in "hotspot" areas where groups which signed the peace deal have vacated.

AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)

 

Mervyn Thomas, CSW's chief executive, said: "The fact that human rights violations, including freedom of religious or belief (FoRB) violations, have continued and even worsened in some parts of Colombia despite the signing of the peace agreement two years ago is of grave concern, and indicates the need for the agreement to be fully implemented as soon as possible.

"We call on the Colombian government to take steps to ensure that FoRB is protected for all Colombians and that those responsible for threats against and attacks on church leaders are held to account for their actions."

 

In its new report, CSW says not all FoRB violations are related to the conflict. Some individuals converting to Christianity among indigenous communities are being forcibly displaced or excluded from receiving particular privileges by traditional authorities, it warns.

Click here to listen to Premier's Alex Williams speaking with Kiri Kankhwende from CSW:

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