Louisville

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II has written to Colombian President Iván Duque condemning “credible reports of a systematic campaign of extra-judicial assassinations that have taken the lives of hundreds of church and community leaders as well as human rights activists in Colombia.”

Nelson called on Duque to “do everything within your power to cause paramilitary activities to cease, to bring those responsible for such illegal acts to justice, and to work in good faith for the full and prompt implementation of the Peace Accords.”

The full text of Nelson’s letter, dated August 7, 2018:

August 7, 2018 

Hon. Iván Duque
President of the Republic of Colombia
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Nariño
Bogota, Colombia 

Esteemed President Duque: 

In October of 2016 I had the privilege of visiting your country at the invitation of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia. During that visit I formed part of an interfaith delegation that met with President Santos prior to the referendum on the Peace Accords. It was an honor to join with Colombian sisters and brothers from different faith traditions seeking to move Colombia toward peace with justice after decades of war. 

The denomination I serve, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has been in partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia since 1856. In the last decade, we have participated in the Presbyterian Church of Colombia’s mission to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ as peacemakers by supporting their work with displaced and threatened communities. 

In recent months I have received credible reports of a systematic campaign of extra-judicial assassinations that have taken the lives of hundreds of church and community leaders as well as human rights activists in Colombia. 

Most recently I have seen reports of a dramatic rise in illegal paramilitary activities, including threats against Justapaz, a ministry of the Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia. 

Such paramilitary activities are especially disturbing because, in the past, agents of the Colombian state have been involved in human rights violations. 

When I was in Bogotá, I spent several hours with students at the American School, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia. I was deeply moved by these young people’s vision for the future of their country: a future characterized by peace with justice, prosperity for all, and hope. This vision, they told me, comes from walking the path of Jesus. 

In this same spirit, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) calls on you to do everything within your power to cause paramilitary activities to cease, to bring those responsible for such illegal acts to justice, and to work in good faith for the full and prompt implementation of the Peace Accords. 

We are monitoring this situation closely and expressing these concerns to the US Embassy in Bogotá and to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders of the UN. 

I would appreciate a prompt response from your office on the steps you are taking to bring to justice those responsible for this recent wave of threats and assassinations. 

In the Hope of God’s Reign,
Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 

CC:
US Ambassador Kevin Whitaker
UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Michel Forst Justapaz
Presbyterian Church of Colombia