COLOMBIA: Action Alert - Support Congressional Letter Print
Christian Peacemaker Teams

P.O. Box 6508; Chicago, IL 60680; Tel: 773-277-0253; Fax: 773-277-0291

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COLOMBIA: Action Alert - Support Congressional Letter

Friday, February 28

Civil conflict in Colombia is taking an increasing toll on Colombian church workers. Thirty-three were killed in 2002 alone. Within the past year, Colombian government policies have greatly inhibited the peace ministries of their international supporters, including the Christian Peacemaker Teams organization (CPT). A disturbing pattern of visa denials, deportations and detentions has significantly restricted the faith-based accompaniment efforts of CPT in and around the Colombian city of Barrancabermeja.

U.S. Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL) has initiated a "Dear Colleague" Letter in the House of Representatives asking President Uribe of Colombia to expedite visas for members of CPT. This letter will circulate through the House until March 18, gathering signatures of as many Representatives as possible.

So far there is not an equivalent letter for the Senate. However, some Senators may be willing to send similar individual letters.

U.S. ACTION #1: Please CALL your Representative's DC office and urge him/her to SIGN ON to Congressman Evans' "Dear Colleague Letter to President Uribe of Colombia asking his assistance in expediting visas for members of CPT.

U.S. ACTION #2: Please CALL your Senator's DC office and urge him/her to SEND A LETTER to President Uribe of Colombia asking his assistance in expediting visas for members of CPT. Mention the House "Dear Colleague" Letter as a sample. Be ready to fax/e-mail the text of that sample letter to the Senator's office.

U.S. Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121; toll free: 800-839-5276.

TEXT OF "DEAR COLLEAGUE" LETTER:

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:

Since May, 2001, CPT has maintained a peace team in Barrancabermeja, Colombia at the invitation of the Colombian Mennonite Church (nationally) and the displaced and formerly displaced families of rural Ci?naga del Op?n township (locally). CPT-Colombia members accompany civilian communities and individuals who are in danger because of continuing violence. This international peace presence has facilitated the return of over 100 displaced families in the Ci?naga del Op?n. It is CPT's policy not to accompany armed individuals or people it has reason to believe are members of an armed group.

Over the past two years, CPT was able to maintain a rotating team of 8 full-time members in Barrancabermeja. These individuals were issued Religious Worker Visas or NGO Volunteer Visas valid for 1-2 years. No visa renewals or new visas have been granted to CPTers applying under the auspices of the Colombian Mennonite Church or ASOCICOL (Mennonite NGO) since May, 2002, leaving only three full-time volunteers with appropriate visas to carry out CPT's ministry in Colombia. If there are no new visa approvals, and as the existing visas expire, the team will continue to shrink, leaving the civilian population of the Ci?naga del Op?n at even greater risk.