We do believe in life

IMG_0231 Presbyterian Mission Co-worker Richard Williams spent time in late May in San Onofre. He traveled there with two pastors from La Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia. They went to stand in solidarity with Rogelio Martínez Mercado’s family and community as they mourned his violent death and as they cried out for justice.

Richard writes:

“We were going to San Onofre, a small town near the Caribbean Coast, in the department (state) of Sucre.  The region around San Onofre is primarily held by large landowners now; they mostly raise cattle along with some African Palm.  San Onofre is known to Colombians as the site of several mass graves resulting from intense paramilitary activity in this area in the 90’s and early 2000’s.  Rogelio and organizations he was working with have been pressing for justice for those killed in those dark times.  He was the leader of a group of 52 families that were living and working a farm called La Finca Alemania.  They were working to reclaim the land that had been violently stolen from them.  The persons behind Rogelio’s murder are not clear, but the threat to the work he and others are doing is.”

Richard reflects on Rogelio’s death, the display of solidarity and commitment to the quest for justice displayed at the memorial service, and the behavior of the police at the memorial service. He affirms, “We do believe in life, not in death.  Thanks be to the God of life, who holds us in all of our trials.” And he invites us to prayer: “prayer with the family and community of Rogelio Martínez Mercado . . . prayers for comfort and for memory . . . prayers for safety and security . . .  prayers for justice and reconciliation.”

The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, drawing on work of Lutheran World Relief and Amnesty International, suggests writing letters to Colombia Officials that ask them to: 

  • Conduct an independent, thorough and independent investigation into Rogelio's murder
  • Take immediate measure to provide adequate protection to Rogelio's wife, Julia Torres Cancino, and their four children, as well as other members of the farming commumity of La Alemania
  • Swiftly resolve long-standing legal issues that have made it impossible for all farming families originally displaced from La Alemania Farm to return safely
  • Transform security and development policies on Colombia's northern coast that have left small farmers vulnerable to violence

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)