Open Doors Visits Released Colombian Prisoner
After three years in a Colombian jail, Jaime Tenorio was released in November 2014. Jaime, an indigenous Colombian who lives in Cauca, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being falsely accused of attempted murder by his community. He was released after only three years because the lawyer hired by his accusers discovered that the allegations against him were false.
Open Doors recently met with Jamie. He says that he vividly recalls the day in 2011 when he came to the aid of a Christian woman struggling with tribal leaders who were attempting to take her cows away. They falsely accused her of having stolen them. In the scuffle, someone assaulted Jaime and he hit back in self-defense. The community’s indigenous council charged him with attempted murder.
Before his arrest, Jaime participated in a Christian organization that fights for Christian education rights within indigenous communities. Often, the traditional indigenous authorities are against any Christian influence as it is seen as a threat to local culture. Christians who try to obtain more rights and to share and live out their faith often experience backlash in several forms.
One common form of backlash is false accusations and sentencing under local laws. According to the Colombian Constitution, many regions have autonomy and are allowed to apply local laws that contradict national law. This gives total autonomy to indigenous tribes and allows them to set up independent justice systems within their communities. Applying local law governess; the local court sentenced Jaime to 20 years in prison. Jamie was imprisoned; however, in a Colombian (not local) prison because local jails are not built for long-term imprisonments.
In 2014, the lawyer hired by the indigenous council found that there were no legal grounds to keep Jaime in the federal prison and he was released back into his own community. The local leaders then released him from his prison sentence, but on the condition that he had to do forced labor for two years.
Jaime quickly realized there was not much left for him in his village. Food and school supplies for his family had been confiscated by the locals, so he decided to escape with his family and resettle. He and his family are now trying to survive by making and selling bags in another area. Jaime still fears the indigenous authorities.
During his time in jail, he received visits from Open Doors workers, and his family and was surprised by the many cards Christians that were sent to him from all over the world. Open Doors supported not only Jaime, but also his family in practical ways. Three of his children were accepted at the Open Doors Children Center, a safe house for children of pastors and Christian leaders. After his release, Open Doors has continued to support the family.
Jaime knew he was not alone during his imprisonment because of the many people who prayed for him and sent cards to him and his family. Jaime wrote a letter, “With all respect, I would like to thank you for both the gesture of spiritual support and the physical support that you have sent me. I send greetings to sisters and brothers in other countries.”
Father, we thank You for Jaime’s release from prison and for his escape from the locals. We thank You for the work of Open Doors in helping Jaime and his family in this time of need and distress. We pray for favor with the village leaders in this new place and for the provision of resources the family needs to be sustained. We pray for access to education and for the freedom to worship with other followers of Jesus. We pray for the gospel to go forth in power and authority in Colombia, for opportunities to share the Good News of Christ and for the courage to proclaim, along with Paul, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” May there be an outpouring of the Spirit of God across that nation. In the name of Jesus, who is gathering His Church from across the globe, Amen.