The Bogota-based Christian Center for Justice, Peace and Nonviolent Action, Justapaz, said Pastor William Reyes left the city of Valledupar on September 25 for his home in Maicao in northern Colombia, where he never arrived.
Reyes leads the ‘Light and Truth Church’, an evangelical oriented Interamerican denomination of Maicao, and is a member of the Fraternity of Evangelical Pastors of Maicao (FRAME), a major pastors association, which has received threats from leftist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), Christians said.
News of his disappearance came amid reports that last month, three other Christian pastors were reportedly killed in separate incidents across the country. Christian rights investigators said two church leaders died in the northern Caribbean region and a third in Buenaventura on the Pacific coast. There identities were not immediately revealed.
“We are very concerned for the safety of Pastor William Reyes and other members of FRAME,” said Justapaz, an organization of the Mennonite Church.
Last month, October 4, several thousand people reportedly marched in Maicao demanding Reye’s release. Idia Miranda reportedly said her husband’s wallet appeared in their church after the march, indicating, perhaps, that he was close by.
No group has claimed responsibility for Reye’s disappearance, but Christians said he may have been kidnapped. “Various reports state that prior to his disappearance, Reyes had intervened in a motorcycle theft, after which he received several threats on his cell phone. He also received a text-message warning from an unidentified previous church-member who stated that two men had been paid to harm Reyes,” Justapaz added.
Human rights violations of Christians and other civilians have also been reported elsewhere in Colombia. Last year alone, Christian rights investigators registered the murder of four pastors and 22 additional homicides of lay leaders and church members.
While many killings have been linked to FARC rebels, at least some murders may have been carried out by members of the Colombian Armed Forces. Soldiers allegedly commit the murders for the two-fold purpose of “social cleansing” – the extrajudicial elimination of criminals, drug users and gang members – and to gain promotions and bonuses.
The scandal prompted President Alvaro Uribe to announce late October that he had dismissed more than two dozen soldiers and officers, among them three generals, implicated in the murders. END