Worship services banned by guerrilla army in Colombia comment (0)
January 2, 2014
PUTUMAYO, Colombia — Christians in southern Colombia are living in constant danger from a guerrilla army that has banned worship services in rural areas under its control.
An estimated 150 churches have been forced to close since July 2013, when the 32nd Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP in Spanish) launched a repressive campaign against Roman Catholic and evangelical churches in the department (state) of Putumayo.
The FARC-EP has prohibited celebration of the Mass and Protestant worship in most small towns and villages. Only congregations that have express permission from the rebel group are allowed to hold services without fear of retaliation.
Christians at greatest risk are the members of house churches and the itinerant evangelists who serve them.
“Every time my husband or another church leader leaves to go preach in the countryside, I can only ask, ‘Lord, continue to watch out for the safety of every one of them,’” Jeanet Ortiz Pinto, wife of itinerant evangelist and radio speaker Angel Pinto, said in an interview. “My heart is saddened to see what is happening around us.”
The Pintos have led the Church of God in Puerto Asis, Putumayo, since 1988. Angel Pinto also serves as itinerant pastor of several newly planted churches in the region.
The FARC-EP is known to have assassinated hundreds of evangelical church leaders over the years, including some of Pinto’s ministerial colleagues in Puerto Asis.
Guerrilla threats have driven six priests from their parishes in the Diocese of Mocoa, according to press reports.
“In the manual of coexistence issued by area FARC units, they have ordered us to close our churches, prohibited us from visiting outlying communities, or to preach — in effect, we must cease religious celebrations altogether,” said Monsignor Luis Alberto Parra, bishop of Mocoa.