On September 12th, there were reports of paramilitaries once again looking to lash out against the town of San José de Apartadó. As reported by the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó on their official website, the paramilitary groups return to their land on September 23rd and have stated plans to resettle into the area. This area has suffered war between the army, paramilitaries, and guerilla groups for more than 20 years. Now, just as the community has managed to resume cultivating a peaceful existence, the paramilitary groups return. Spokesmen for the community accuse these paramilitaries as being new guerilla fighters. Press agency Noticias Uno noted on September 11th that the armed groups that returned to San José de Apartadó are paramilitaries.
Jesuit Priest Javier Giraldo, researcher at the Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP), was involved in these complaints. Secular and religious institutions have been important in helping San José when violence first began in 1996. Communities underwent the first displacement in 1997. Several organizations and religious groups assisted in the community during this time. Fears of another displacement are surfacing. The Christian communities will likely be on high alert, ready to help as needed in this small, forgotten town.
Christian ministries have been key in emotional and spiritual support during the war in Colombia. For example, in Tierralta, a region in northern Colombia, Christians resisted actions of the paramilitary groups and guerillas through organized displacement, relocation, and reconstruction. In Corinto, another area of Colombia in which OD operates, guerillas intended to displace the Christians in the community but they resisted and were successful.
The Christian community in Colombia has been of great importance in reconstruction of the social structure before, during, and after actions of legal and illegal armed groups. It remains to be seen how the peace process will impact the role of the Church. Whatever the result, whether the peace agreements are accepted or rejected, there will be an element of destabilization in both rural and urban churches and they must be prepared to face this situation.
- Pray for wisdom for the OD Colombia team.
- Pray for Christian communities that are in the middle of war.