Politics and Policy:
- I received this message today from the CPTnet:
October 10, 2002
COLOMBIA: CPT workers detained by Colombian authorities
Two Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) volunteers, Lisa Martens, 25 (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Ben Horst, 23 (Evanston, Illinois), were detained by officials of the Administrative Security Department of Colombia (DAS in Spanish) and by Colombian military personnel at about 10 p.m. on October 8, 2002.
Earlier in the day, Martens and Horst, both Mennonites, had accompanied a Colombian woman who was bringing the body of her husband from a nearby village to the central Colombian city of Yondo for burial. The woman had requested international accompaniment for herself and the other civilians who made the trip with her because of her fear of violence.
The detentions were a matter of major concern to Colombian and international workers because they could represent new restrictions on organizations working with people whom armed groups have threatened with death or persecution.
CPT regularly supports civilians who are in physical and emotional pain because of the ubiquitous violence in Colombia.
“To accompany a bereaved widow with her husband’s body, so that it may be treated and buried with dignity, is in keeping with CPT’s work wherever CPT has carried out projects,” said Gene Stoltzfus, international director of CPT. Martens and Horst emphasized that none of the civilians were members of any illegal armed group, nor were any armed.
On the morning of October 9, CPT staff contacted government officials in both Canada and the United States to seek the release of Martens and Horst. Officials from both countries were in contact with Colombian officials throughout the day, and by late afternoon Martens and Horst were released without charges. Martens reported by phone, “We called to mind the great cloud of witnesses in heaven who are concerned for us and the people of Colombia,” as she described their prayer times while in detention.
CPT still does not understand why the authorties detained Martens and Horst, but hopes that the Colombian government better understands the work of CPT after this event. President Uribe has stated that his government is committed to the protection of human rights. CPT hopes that Colombian and international human rights organizations will be able to continue their work of defending the human rights of unarmed civilians caught in the bloody conflict that grips Colombia.
CPT has had a violence-reduction team in Barrancabermeja, Colombia since May, 2001 at the invitation of the Colombian Mennonite Church. CPT members accompany civilians who are in danger because of the violence that has gripped Colombia for several decades. CPT does not accompany members of armed groups, nor anyone who is armed. Present team members are Ben Horst (Evanston, IL), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Lena Siegers (Blythe, ON) and Scott Albrecht (Waterloo, ON).
Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative among Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations and Friends Meetings that supports violence reduction efforts around the world.
Contact CPT, POB 6508 Chicago, IL 60680; Telephone: 773-277-0253 Fax: 773-277-0291.