There are two Colombias
I remember sitting at the dinner table at the Children’s home in Colombia as our interpreter declared, “There are two Colombias.” From my Canadian perspective, it didn’t make much sense. There was nothing in my Canadian experience to compare it to. No matter where you travel in Canada, you travel in relative safety. But the more I talked to people from Colombia, the more stories I heard, the more I began to understand the truth of that statement.
When you travel in Colombia, big cities like Bogota are relatively safe. The government is in control and you don’t need to fear guerillas or other armed groups. But as you travel outside of the big cities, things become a little less safe. Don’t believe me, just check out the Government of Canada’s travel website for Colombia and see all the areas of risk! That’s because in these areas, the government has less control and armed guerilla groups, paramilitary groups, criminal gangs and cartels take control. These groups directly or indirectly negatively influence the church. It’s in these areas that Christians are at greatest risk.
However, our interpreter wasn’t only taking about two Colombias politically, he was also talking about how there are two churches in Colombia. The ones that live in safety and the persecuted church. Unfortunately, the safe church seems largely unaware of the issues facing their persecuted brothers.
As we travelled throughout the country, we sat with pastors and heard their stories. As one pastor shared with us his story, a chorus of voices from the street brought his voice to a mere whisper. He wasn’t sure those in the street could be trusted, you never know when a spy might be listening in. The caution in his voice spoke volumes to the reality of persecution in Colombia. He spoke of multiple attempts on his life, threats against his family and how his children found refuge at the Open Doors children’s home. Before we left, he told us that our visit was like God giving him a hug and to please tell others about the reality they face in Colombia.
One of the big issues in Colombia is people who have had to flee their homes and their land because of violence and threats against them. In fact, Colombia has the highest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world at almost 7.7 million. This is a big issue among the indigenous people of Colombia. Many of the children at the Children’s home are from families that were kicked out of their Indigenous territories because they accepted Christ and refused to participate in the indigenous traditional beliefs. One indigenous community kicked out 25 families in one day because they were now Christ followers. They lost their home, their lands and their rights as indigenous people. They were forced to make shelter out of plastic bags. Losing your home and your rights for Jesus is just one example of the type of persecution Christians face in Colombia.
Having experienced the two Colombias, I’m excited for the opportunity we have to make a difference this year in the lives of persecuted Colombian believers by participating in the Ride for Refuge. When you participate in the ride on behalf of Open Doors, the money you raise will go to help our persecuted family in Colombia. So sign-up today at www.rideforerefuge.org and join us September 29th to Walk/Ride for persecuted Christians in Colombia!