CANADIAN CHURCH WORKER DETAINED BY COLOMBIAN AUTHORITIES
Toronto, Ontario Two volunteers from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Lisa Martens, 25, from Winnipeg MB, and Ben Horst, 23, from Evanston IL, were detained without charges by twelve members of the Colombian Administrative Security Department and the Colombian armed forces at 10 p.m. on October 8, 2002.
Earlier the same day, Martens and Horst, had accompanied a Colombian civilian woman, along with the body of her deceased husband and other civilians, from a nearby village to the city of Yondo, for burial. The civilian woman had requested international accompaniment because of her fear of . None of the civilians were members of any illegal armed group, nor were any armed.
Martens said, ?We have done this before. We have fished bodies out of the river because even their relatives are afraid to, afraid that they will be further victimized.?
CPT regularly accompanies unarmed civilians who are in danger because of the ubiquitous in Colombia. ?The accompaniment Lisa and Ben offered a bereaved widow, so her husband's body could treated and buried with dignity, is a part of the work of building peace in a war-wracked country," said Gene Stoltzfus, Director of CPT.
CPT staff contacted legislators and 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 October 9, and by late afternoon Martens and Horst were released without charges.
After her release, Martens reported, ?While in detention, we prayed and called to mind the great cloud of witnesses in heaven who are concerned for us and the people of Colombia.?
CPT still does not understand why Martens and Horst were detained, but hopes that the Colombian government better understands the work of CPT after this event. Colombian 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 rights of unarmed civilians caught in the y conflict that grips Colombia.
CPT has had a -reduction team in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, since May 2001, at the invitation of the Colombian Mennonite Church. Present team members are Scott Albrecht (Waterloo ON), Ben Horst (Evanston IL), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg MB), and Lena Siegers (Blythe ON).
CPT is sponsored by Mennonite and Brethren congregations, Friends? Meetings (Quakers), and other Christians, both Catholic and Protestant from other denominations, in Canada, the U.S.A. and the U.K.