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Breaking the Silence

Hello friends,

The armed men pulled up to our house, and without any explanation took our 28-year-old Johnnie down to where the army was in the soccer field. I went a number of times to try to find out what was happening to him. And they just kept telling us everything would be OK, and that Johnnie would soon be released. Then two days later we found Johnnie's body amongst a pile of bodies in a ravine outside of Grande.

"What was Johnnie like? How would you like to remember him? What work did he do?" asked Chico. Betty responded, "He was such a hard worker. Johnnie bought and sold fish on the street. He loved having his own little business. He liked to tease and joke around the house. He really made our family life happy. We really miss him. He was just a good person. He didn't even smoke. Why did they kill him? I do not understand."

"Do you have any idea who these men were that took him away? Who did people in Grande say these men were? "

Neighbors said they were paramilitaries. The Army commander was Col. Blanco. I do remember him clearly."

"Who have you talked to about this in the eleven years since this massacre in Grande when 90 young men were killed in those five days back in 1994?"

"The only thing I have done is file a report with the government investigative agency, but I have never heard anything back from them about it."

"How did this affect you and your family?"

"My mother got sick, barely ate, and wouldn't talk to anyone for at least a week. We were all so afraid they would kill one of us if we said anything to anyone. It was so hard; we never knew if one of us might be next."

The above is a compilation of a number of testimonies of survivors of a massacre, to which Duane and I just listened. Chico and Santiago, the interviewers, told us afterwards, "You came to provide us with security, but your presence as internationals also made people feel safer. They trust more that this information will not get in the wrong hands. Thank you so much for being here with us."

One testimony was so heavy that Chico asked me to lead us in a prayer together. That was a meaningful moment for us all.

This was the beginning of the healing for these people as they shared with someone who cared. It was a way for these survivors to feel their loved ones were not just statistics of the war. And hopefully the notes from these testimonies will be used to bring justice, forgiveness and reconciliation to Colombia some day soon. Please pray for that.

Peace,

Jim

Here around the table in this patio under these trees people shared their painful experiences.
Starting from the left is yours truly, (Chico) Francisco Campo, Santiago Carmago and Duane Ediger.
A number of years ago Chico was threatened by the paramilitaries.
They did this by stating in a news conference that Chico was on their list of people to do away with.
He held a news conference the following day saying that despite their threats he was not going to stop doing his human rights works.
We saw him a few days later and asked him if he wasn't afraid.
He said, "Whenever I get fearful I just remember that song CPTer's taught me: Nothing will frighten me, God is enough."

Some names have been changed for security.

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