Seeking peace. Striving for justice. Together.
An update from our partners in the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship:
Thank you to the many of you who have already begun reaching out in response to our urgent action this Saturday. We wanted to provide A CORRECTED E-MAIL ADDRESS and a few critical updates based on some of the feedback we have received and some of the communications we have already seen some write:
1) The email to the State Department as given was incorrect. It is: WHAColombiaDeskOfficers@state.gov (That’s ColOmbia, not ColUmbia. We can’t believe we passed on the wrong version!)
2) Please remember in your communications the correct spelling of Colombia is with an "O" not a "U". We know that some spell-check programs might tell you otherwise, but this is a sensitive point with Colombians, and errors reduce the credibility of your communications – as it did ours!)
3) Some of you have asked for a sample template of a letter, so there’s one below that you can adapt to your needs. (And please DO adapt it to personalize it, if you possibly can.)
4) Just to clarify, Our ministry in Colombia is one of shared community accompaniment with our church partners. We are NOT front line human rights accompaniers as some other organizations are. This is an important clarification – we don’t want to misrepresent our work.
5) The information that was shared with you in our first e-alert is a combination of information from our accompaniers, our church partners and other human rights organizations we work with in an ongoing basis. While we are sharing this alert with you as an urgent one at the request of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia, we do not have information that other organizations do not have. Other organizations are also monitoring this community and its needs.
6) Here’s a photo of our two accompaniers visiting with Mr. Teheren's father this past Friday. This is what accompaniment looks like! We are, as ever, proud of our accompaniers and their wonderful ministry alongside the Presbyterian Church of Colombia. (There are more photos of the land-clearance that they witnessed on our Facebook page - scroll down the timeline to April 19th - or directly here.
Please continue to join us in prayer and share with us your communications. We give thanks for your involvement and willingness to speak out on our behalf so quickly and for all of your many acts of solidarity.Thank you for being a partner in our efforts to bring about God's beloved nonviolent community in Colombia and around the Creation.
As always, we remain in your service.
Peace in Christ,
Shannan and Linda
April 22, 2013
Ambassador P. Michael McKinley
Carrera 45 No. 24B-27
Bogotá, D.C. Colombia
Dear Ambassador McKinley,
I am deeply concerned by the murder of our brother in Christ, Narciso Enrique Teherán Mejia on April 12, 2013 in the town of El Tamarindo, Colombia in the municipality of Galapa. Mr. Teherán was murdered by unknown persons as he slept in his home in a community of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), where his father was a land rights activist.
I strongly urge you to direct officials from our Embassy to prioritize the immediate investigation of this case and to demand that the Colombian government conduct a thorough and fair investigation into this murder. I also ask that you direct officials from our Embassy to call upon the Colombian government to protect Mr. Teheran’s remaining family, colleagues and community members. Finally, I encourage you to press for an investigation into security and development policies on Colombia’s northern coast that leave small farmers vulnerable to violence.
Our church partners report that Mr. Teherán was a campesino working for people’s rights. He was not doing anything illegal or untoward. He was a leader working on farming projects with fellow farmers who have been displaced by violence.
Presbyterians have engaged in ministry with our sisters and brothers in Colombia for over 150 years. We support the ministries of our partners in the face of the violence and instability within their country. We pray and work for an end to the violence and a just peace for all Colombians. Since 2004 our denomination has been engaged in a program on nonviolent community accompaniment with our church partners in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.
As part of that program, two United States citizens serving as accompaniers visited the El Tamarindo community and Mr. Teheran’s grieving family on Friday April 19, 2013. While there they encountered members of the Colombian armed forces assisting with the forcible displacement of the El Tamarindo community. They witnessed bulldozers in the area and were told they were not allowed to take photographs. Nevertheless they visited the community and did take photographic evidence of what is happening in that community. It is concerning to me that members of my church, and who are United States citizens serving on behalf of our shared ministry were treated in this fashion as a response to their ministry of accompaniment and solidarity in the name of Jesus Christ.
I invite you to join us in this work by taking the steps outlined above in response to the murder of Narciso Enrique Teherán Mejia and the urgent threat his community is under today. I look forward to hearing the steps you take in this matter.
Rev. Shannan R. Vance-Ocampo
Director of Colombia Programs
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship