Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Disappeared

I will not sleep well tonight.

Of course I rarely sleep well, but at least I will know why tonight. 

It is hard to sleep, at least for me, when my heart aches even more than usual.

I learned last night that Antonia Ariza went missing on September 1, 2011. The information came from our partners in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia. Antonio has been working with the church for a number of years in their ministry of accompaniment with people who have been displaced in Colombia.

Despite the ongoing and repeated threats to his life, Antonio has remained committed to the cause of peace and justice for displaced persons in Colombia. He was continuing his tireless activities as president of the Atl√°ntico chapter of the National Association of Displaced Persons of Colombia (ANDESCOL).    

Antonio's whereabouts remain unknown. He has become one of the disappeared.

The IPC is mounting a search for him and are pressing his case to all authorities in Colombia. Presbyterians are joining in the effort. I spent a good portion of the day working with partners from the Colombia Accompaniment Program on a letter to the US Embassy in Bogota from Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The letter is at the request of the IPC and is shaped by information they provided.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has identified action steps to take. The list was created with the assistance of Rev. Sarah Henken, Regional Liaison for the Andean Region for Presbyterian World Mission. The steps are designed to pressure the authorities in Colombia to place the highest priority possible in the search for Antonio. 

Here's an update from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship on the action steps: 

Update:

Thank you so much to everyone for your outreach in regards to the case of Antonio Ariza. We have received word from the US Embassy in Bogota today through numerous channels that they have our information and that they are working on his case.

We have also received feedback from many of our loyal grassroots supporters that they are experiencing issues with email bounce-backs from both US and Colombian addresses that we have provided you with. We apologize for this inconvenience, be assured that the addresses are correct, but their systems have a number of safeguards to prevent spam, and due to the volume of emails we have generated, some of them are being turned away by the automated systems. We have no control over this.

At this time we do not need to continue to send faxes to the US Embassy. They have received our message, and additional faxes would probably be counterproductive since they have been flooded today by our organization and our partner organizations. Please continue to fax/email the offices of Colombian officials as able.

Thank you so much—your solidarity means so much and we will continue to keep you posted about our continued advocacy for Antonio. Your prayers continue to be of great need and comfort to all in this time.

–The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

I had the privilege to meet Antonio when I was in Colombia during Holy Week and Easter of 2011. My heart breaks for him, for his family, for his friends, and for all who have been disappeared. My heart breaks that we live in a world where some people think they can simply make people with whom they disagree, people who threaten them, disappear. And not only are there people who think that - they are in position to make it happen.

May God's peace be with Antonio - with his family - with his friends - with the people of of the IPC - with all who been disappeared - with all who sleep poorly tonight as they wait and worry for loved ones.

See you along the trail. I look forward to the day I see Antonio.

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