Our partners in the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship have asked that we share the information below from our partners in ministry of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia.
Yesterday we received an urgent communication from the Rev. Jaira Barriga of the Presbytery of the North Coast in Colombia concerning the murder on April 12, 2013, of a young man, Narcisco Enrique Teheran Mejia. His murder followed a series of death threats and paramilitary operations in an area called El Tamarindo in the municipality of Galapa, near the city of Barranquilla. Mr. Teheran was the son of a land restitution activist and was shot pointblank in his face while sleeping in his home.
The Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IPC) has been supporting this community for some time in their process of land restitution. This community is comprised of internally displaced persons from a variety of regions who are working to regain their land and stay together in the safety of the zone of El Tamarindo. This community has been together since 2001 and includes over 135 forcibly displaced families. Beginning on January 28, 2013 a paramilitary group called “El Cartel de la Costa” has been carrying out intimidation, evictions and threats to these families. Homes have been burned to the ground, crops have been destroyed and community leaders have been threatened. Mr. Teheran lost his life last week as part of this systematic and increasing project of threats to the community of El Tamarindo.
Our response in Colombia:
We have accompaniers who are based in Barranquilla for the month of April. Two days ago they visited the El Tamarindo community to offer their solidarity and support, alongside leaders from the Presbytery of the North Coast. They visited with Mr. Teheran’s grieving family and community. They reported that while in El Tamarindo they saw bulldozers entering the town, presumably to inflict even greater acts of aggression and destruction upon that community. While there the bulldozers began their work of destroying one farmer’s land. Our accompaniers continued to talk to leaders and take photographs of the destruction. They report that a Colombian Army official ran across the field to tell them to stop what they were doing. They identified themselves as U.S. citizens and members of the PC(U.S.A.). We give thanks for their bravery and ministry of accompaniment in this important time. Our accompaniers wrote these words about their time in the community and the attempted intimidation they faced while accompanying that community: “All of the actors in the complex dynamic in the struggle for land were present: the thuggish paramilitary wielding a machete and a few of his cronies, the local police, at least 8 armed military carrying assault weapons, the spokesperson for the “presumed” land owner trying to appropriate the disputed parcel of land, the land owner by the law of usage who together with his campesinos had worked the land for more than 10 years, and a grief stricken father whose son had received a bullet through his head execution style only days before. And we were there, our delegation of four Presbyterians, there to bear witness and to stand in solidarity with the farmers.”
Thank you so much for your immediate attention to this urgent action that is a direct request from our ministry partners in Colombia.
Please share this action alert widely through your social media and personal contacts. Please respond to this action alert to let us know that you have reached out to these persons or with any questions you might have.
Please join us in prayer for our sisters and brothers in the El Tamarindo community and for the grieving family of Mr. Teheran.
In the name of the Prince of Peace,
Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo
Director of Colombia Programs
Rev. Linda Eastwood
Coordinator of the Accompaniment Program
Please take the following steps immediately:
Write to the following persons, letting them know that you are a U.S. citizen (and name any other titles, leadership and membership you have in organizations such as the Presbyterian Church or the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship). You may write these letters in English/Spanish.
· Tell them that you demand an immediate investigation into the deteriorating situation in El Tamarindo
· Demand immediate protective measures to be put in place for the IPP families in El Tamarindo
· Request a response to your letter detailing the actions they are undertaking on behalf of the community of El Tamarindo
Send a letter to the United States Embassy
ATTN: The Honorable P. Michael McKinley
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia
Fax to: 011-571-275-4600 (this is the direct dial from the US to fax to Colombia)
(faxing is THE most effective way to get the attention of the Embassy)
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS
Presidente de la República (President of Colombia)
Casa de Nariño Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 edificio administrativo calle 7 no. 6-54 Bogotá D.C.
Colombia- conmutador (571) 5629300
Vicepresidente de la República (Vice-President of Colombia)
Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C. Teléfonos (571) 4442120, 4442122
FERNANDO CARRILO FLOREZ
Ministro del Interior (Minister of the Interior/Colombia)
Carrera 8° no. 7 – 83 Bogotá D.C.
EDUARDO MONTEALEGRE LYNETT
Fiscal General de la Nación (Justice Department/Colombia)
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01 (ciudad salitre) Bogotá D.C.
conmutador: 57(1) 5702000 – 4149000
JORGE ARMANDO OTÁLORA GÓMEZ
Defensor del Pueblo (Defender of Towns/Colombia)
Calle 55 No. 10 – 32 Bogotá D.C.