Just before 3 a.m. on June 14, intruders forcibly entered Justapaz, the justice and peace office of the Colombian Mennonite Church in Bogotá. The burglars took two desktop computers. What they wanted—given the valuable items left behind—was highly sensitive information on human rights abuse victims, human rights advocates working their cases, and local churches working for peace. The lack of response from local authorities suggests incompetence or complicity, according to Justapaz.
"I am scared they will kill us," cried one widow whose story of victimization was on the stolen computers. Yet she, like other church people, identified the joint documentation program between Justapaz and the Evangelical Council of Colombia as their only hope for speaking out. Other witnesses to atrocities have already experienced reprisals.
"These are the consequences of following Christ in an insecure environment," said a local church worker. "We must continue to accompany the victims." The Justapaz attack is at least the sixth in a string of information thefts targeting non-governmental organizations, but this is the first time a church program has been hit.
Janna Hunter-Bowman is coordinator of the Documentation and Advocacy Program of Justapaz.