COLOMBIA: Community gathers to affirm life in face of paramilitary death threats
20 December 2005
COLOMBIA: Community gathers to affirm life in face of paramilitary death
On Wednesday, 14 December, forty representatives of church and social
organizations united in front of the Catholic church of a working class
neighbourhood in Barrancabermeja to say "yes" to life, and "no" to the wave
of assassinations that has rolled over the area in recent weeks. Six men,
all well-known in the community, have died at the hands of paramilitaries:
Delfin Rafael Perez, Jorge Cala, Jaime Quintero, Jhon Fabio Sanabria, Cesar
Augusto Serpa, y Luis Edo Gonzalez. Cala was vice-president of the ward
council, and Perez a youth soccer trainer and local activist with the
Alternative Democratic Pole party.
CPTers, responding to an invitation, began the event in prayer, recalling
that they were gathered in a time of Advent, when Christians wait for the
arrival of the baby Jesus, and the Realm of Justice and Love that his birth
promised. Participants followed by reading the "Litany of Resistance
against Violence," written by CPTer Jim Loney, currently held in Baghdad.
"For the victims of war, have mercy," they read and, "With the help of the
grace of God, we will struggle for justice."
Father Eliecer Soto continued with a reflection on the fear sown by criminal
acts like assassination. He ended with a blessing for all those present
physically, as well as all those who were listening from their home who did
not participate for fear of what could befall them later.
"We must not bow to, we must not give in to these atrocities, which have the
aim precisely of silencing us, the citizens of Barrancabermeja. We must
continue to choose life, a life that respects the dignity of every human
being," said Soto.
The group processed from the church to the places where each man had been
killed. At every stop, a vigil participant share memories of the deceased,
and expressed the pain and the rage he or she felt for their loss. Juan
Carlos Galvis of the Coca-Cola bottlers union, SINALTRAINAL and Human Rights
Workers Forum, said, "We come with an attitude of struggle for life, an
attitude that has always characterized the people of Barrancabermeja. We
weep for the deaths of these citizens." David Ravelo of the human rights
organization, CREDHOS, declared that those present "demand that the mayor
give a concrete response to these murders, in order to end the violence and
Upon hearing the words of the various speakers, neighbourhood residents came
to the fences of their homes and listened attentively.
The Central Bolivar Block, the paramilitary group allegedly responsible for
the murders of the six men, claims to be refraining from "hostilities" in
preparation to demobilize, although the assassinations continue. Recently
they named several people in a death list. (See 7 December 2005 CPTnet
release, "Forum of Human rights workers condemns civilian murders.") Of
those threatened, five attended the action, in an effort to demonstrate
through their presence the rejection of the culture of death threatening
Barracabermeja and their choice to work and to wait for a culture of life.