Please Pray- Prominent Christian Leader Falsely Accused Of Guerrilla Affiliation

September 17, 2013 by Open Doors in ,

Colombia A pamphlet produced by the ultra-rightist criminal band Los Urabes, has falsely accused a prominent Colombian Christian peacemaker of being affiliated with Latin America’s oldest guerrilla insurgency. Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas, Director of the Mennonite church-affiliated foundation, Sowing Seeds of Peace, stands accused of belonging to the 35th Front of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The pamphlet accuses him of promoting the return of this illegal armed group to the zone of El Carmen de Bolivar, in the northern Colombian department of Bolivar. Open Doors learned from contacts in the zone that state authorities in the military and the judicial branch, accept the pamphlet’s baseless accusations against Esquivia. The accusations likely stem from his organization’s work in helping return land to farmers displaced by paramilitary groups between 2000 and 2004. Government authorities often misunderstand the motivations of human rights workers, assuming that they are affiliated with leftist rebels. The pamphlet also accuses Esquivia of robbery and extortion. For decades El Carmen de Bolivar has been plagued by violence. Until the mid-2000s, the conflict was between the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and the FARC, which long vied for control of this region’s cocaine production. Following the AUC’s demobilization, various armed gangs have fought the FARC for its control. Ricardo Esquivia, a lawyer, is co-founder and Director of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace of the Evangelical Council of Churches of Colombia (CEDECOL). Additionally he founded and formerly directed Justapaz, the Christian center for justice, peace and nonviolent action of the Mennonite Church of Colombia. He has promoted peace and community development in Colombia for more than 40 years, receiving international peace awards from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He has represented non-Catholic religious groups on the National Council of Peace, which advises Colombia’s president. Despite Esquivia’s lifelong devotion to bringing peace to the war-embattled country, Colombian authorities have levied similar allegations against him numerous times over the past 25 years, issuing warrants for his apprehension or threatening legal action against him. Please pray for the protection of Ricardo Esquivia and other Christian leaders working to facilitate land restitution and human rights in the country. Learn More About Persecution In Colombia

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