Displaying items by tag: Colombia
Asking permission to preach was necessary for Leonardo. Not asking could result in death from Colombian guerrillas or paramilitaries. Pastors are obstacles to guerrillas’ political ambitions, as young Christians are no longer attracted to their violent lifestyles. One Sunday gangs stopped him outside the church saying, ‘Today no church preaching!’ So with a speaker and microphone he preached outdoors to young boys. Very quickly his outdoor church grew to 70 adults and 53 children. Most had never heard the gospel, but they soon found faith in Christ and were baptised. Now Leonardo is training several others to preach. It is dangerous to share the gospel so openly, but he knows God is with him.
‘Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.’ (Isaiah 1:17) In Colombia, churches are playing a key role in welcoming and supporting the millions of refugees who have fled political and economic turmoil in Venezuela. Churches are able to reach out to remote communities where local authorities and humanitarian organisations are not working and build trusting relationships with refugees. With support from Tearfund, churches are providing quality services and activities, including trauma healing groups for women who have experienced violence. ‘It is the first support that I found here in Colombia for migrants like us’, says Julie, a Venezuelan refugee who attends a trauma healing group. ‘When I arrived at the church, I found peace that I previously did not have. When I got to the church, I saw that it was like my family.’
Colombia is home to two million Venezuelan refugees who fled economic and political crises and now face adapting to and integrating into a foreign culture. But instead of finding support, they often find themselves isolated and discriminated against. Churches across Colombia have been reaching out to these refugees, letting them know they are not alone. Tearfund and local partners have been equipping churches to set up trauma healing groups, which have supported hundreds of women. It was at her local church’s healing group that Julia finally found acceptance, community, and healing. ‘It is the first support that I found here in Colombia for migrants like us. When I arrived at the church I found the peace that I previously did not have. I saw that it was like my family. I arrive and they hug me, I leave and they hug me. It really has made me think about changing my life.’
A wave of protests has been sweeping across Colombia since 28 April. By 31 May, 59 people had died. Protesters block key roads, causing shortages of fuel and food, and there have been violent clashes between the security forces and demonstrators. The government is holding talks with protest leaders, but with more and more groups joining in the demonstrations a quick resolution seems unlikely. When the protests started the main call was for tax reforms. Four days later the bill was withdrawn. Human rights groups reported that riot police had used tear gas and in some cases shot live ammunition to stop the protests. So rather than abating after the cancellation of the tax reform, the protests intensified. Over 2,300 civilians and members of the security forces have been injured. There have also been marches by thousands of Colombians opposing the roadblocks, causing more violent clashes.
Thousands of Venezuelans have fled to Colombia in the past month to avoid fighting. They are running away from intense armed clashes between Venezuela’s army and Colombia’s rebel groups. Refugees say they were pushed out of their homes by the military and describe human rights abuses, disappearances, and home break-ins. A prominent Colombian guerrilla fighter, Jesus Santrich, was killed in Venezuelan territory as part of the ongoing conflict. For a video of the extent of the troubles go to. Venezuela's ongoing economic and political turmoil could result in the biggest displacement of people in the world in recent years. It is an issue that has repercussions for the whole region. While many countries have acted to deter migrants, Colombia has taken a step in a radically different direction, granting nearly a million undocumented Venezuelans the right to stay for ten years.
For many Christians, times, location and form vary greatly as they seek to worship God safely. On Sunday morning in a village in Colombia Gabriel, an indigenous Christian wakes up to prepare a service which he will lead later that day. Shortly afterwards, he leaves his house and goes to a deserted place, in the middle of the forest, hidden from everyone. In his village, being a Christian results in persecution. Christians do everything to keep the peace by participating in local activities, meetings, and traditional rituals. The latter is an obligation that Christians must fulfil, otherwise they are arrested, questioned, punished and detained until they renounce their faith. They want to stop engaging in traditional rituals that go against Christianity, but it is not easy. They gather in hidden places to pray, sing, and study the Bible.
When Sara was 14, she left home and joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Attracted to the group’s Marxist ideology and in search of acceptance, Sara joined FARC to bring about a Colombian revolution. Years later she was urged by fellow guerrillas to denounce her family, who had become Christians; they knew the gospel ran counter to their violent ideology. But Sara left FARC, rejoined her family, got married, and now places her trust in Christ. Because God saved her from a violent life, she feels compelled to share His Word with others who have given their lives to the guerrilla group. She and her husband now distribute Bibles to youth. Their ministry has not gone unnoticed, as FARC leaders have threatened them many times.
Many geopolitical media watchers and prayer warriors believe the growing wave of anti-government protests ravaging the streets of Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia hasn’t been seen since the old Cold War, which is why the increase in protests and tensions might be called Cold War 2.0 in Latin America. This time, at least as yet, there aren’t armed proxy groups in play but Moscow has weaponised social unrest to sabotage Western power in the region. Earlier this decade we saw similar issues on Russia’s strategic periphery, notably in Ukraine in the wake of the 2014 Maidan protests and the 2005 Orange Revolution. These protesters aren’t necessarily armed Marxists, but anti-government and armed with anti-US rhetoric. Much the same approach is evident in Moscow’s support for Nicholas Maduro’s failing regime in Venezuela, with the help of Cuban operatives. Russia has become increasingly adept at using social media to disperse disinformation on the Internet.
Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela have colossal crime rates which undermine growth, threaten human welfare, and impede social development, according to the UN and World Bank. The region registers 40% of the world’s murders despite having only 9% of the global population. One in four Latin Americans was assaulted and robbed in 2018. Wealthy Brazilians have to provide their own security. Pray for the church and the police to bring security and peace to Brazil’s vulnerable population. Massive street marches in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil protesting against violence have made it difficult for politicians to avoid dealing with the issue and, in many countries, tackling crime is a central theme in political party platforms across the region. Pray for God to raise up strong, wise men and women with God’s anointing to lead the countries back to His purposes.
Colombian charities and churches are delivering food and basic supplies to families in Cucuta, a border town in crisis. Poverty, lack of services, and lack of medical attention is driving families to knock on church doors. Church members are hosting displaced families. The strain is noticeable. As this situation continues to unfold they are asking people to pray for the injured and homeless. Meanwhile Venezuela expelled the German ambassador for helping opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s safe return to the country. Many other diplomats were at the airport to receive him, but so far only the German ambassador has been targeted. Germany, which recognises Mr Guaidó as interim president, said the expulsion will escalate tensions. The US is revoking visas of people linked to President Maduro to put more pressure on him to resign. More rallies on the streets against Maduro are due on Saturday. The next few days are critical. See