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Preaching peace can get you killedBy Lora Steiner
On March 2, Oscar Muņoz Perez, pastor of the Colombian Christian Missionary and Alliance Church in Buenaventura, Colombia, was shot and killed by armed men. Witnesses identified the men as a part of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).
While no one can say for certain why Pastor Muņoz was killed, pastors in Colombia are particularly at risk for various reasons, especially if they preach a message of peace. Refusal to affiliate with any armed group can mean death threats. And as in any armed conflict, innocent people often get caught in the crossfire.
Buenaventura is a city of 300,000 people, located on Colombia's Pacific coast. Home to many Afro-Colombians, it is located in a resource-rich area where both paramilitary and guerilla groups are present. While no reliable statistics on human rights violations exist for this region, Afro-Colombians such as Pastor Muņoz and his family, are some of the people most affected by the conflict, and make up a large portion of Colombia's displaced population.
Pastor Muņoz's church is very involved in the barrio where it is located. It provides assistance to many families through school programs, a soup kitchen, and distribution of school supplies and clothing. Nearly 600 people receive assistance from the church each week.
However, continuing death threats against family members of the pastor have sent the family into hiding. Many of Pastor Muņoz's family were active leaders in the church and its programs.
In response to Pastor Muņoz's death, his church and family are requesting prayer for the Muņoz family, now displaced; that God would raise new leaders in the church and community; and that those who committed the crimes would realize their errors, repent, encounter Christ, and begin to repair the damage they have caused.
Churches in Colombia and North America are invited to respond by participating in "Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia." The event is scheduled for Sunday, May 21, and Monday, May 22. On Sunday, churches are asked to remember the victims of Colombia's conflict and those who are risking their lives for peace.
Monday, the day of action, is a time to contact members of Congress and ask them to cut off military aid to Colombia, and to support peacebuilding initiatives in Colombia. Each year, as a part of the regular budget process, Congress designates hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Colombia, most of it marked for military use. This year the proposal is expected to be around $730 million.
If you would like more information about the Days of Prayer and Action, contact the MCC Washington Office at 202-544-6564, or go to www.peaceincolombia.org. If you would like to send emails of support (in Spanish) to the Muņoz family, you may send them to or .
Quote: In Colombia, preaching peace often means threats, and can get you killed.