Justapaz, a ministry of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, reports an ongoing state of crisis in the northern Colombian province of Córdoba. So far in 2009, six Protestant church leaders from southern Córdoba have been murdered by paramilitary armed groups. Several attempted murders and dozens of death threats have forced the displacement of hundreds of people. Some churches have been literally caught in the crossfire. In one town, the lives of six pastors were threatened if they failed to make extortion payments. Many victims were targeted for their community leadership in land-rights struggles and for opposing the violence affecting their communities.
Justapaz is profoundly concerned about what it sees as the ongoing collusion between rearmed paramilitary groups and Colombian public security forces, as well as the lack of response from other state agencies to this violence.
According to local leaders and local and regional analysts, the current surge is driven by a territorial dispute between paramilitary groups and their economic interest in drug trafficking routes. Justapaz leaders say the groups target local pastors and leaders as a strategy of coercion to gain more land to control the routes. The number of violent deaths documented by Justapaz, as well as the analysis of local leaders, suggests that these groups are seeking to consolidate their control.
For the full story: Call to Prayer and Action for Colombia