Colombian pastor killed amid worsening human rights situation

By staff writers
September 16, 2009

A Colombian pastor from an evangelical church was assassinated at his home on Sunday 13 September 2009, as concern increases about human rights violations against church and human rights workers.

The killing was carried out by three masked gunmen. On the spot reports say the 41-year-old minister, Rafael Velasquez, died instantly.

The attack took place after a church service in a Montelibano hamlet. The armed and masked men broke into Velasquez’s home and shot him dead in front of his wife and six young members of his church.

Paramilitary groups vying for power in the region are thought to be responsible for the murder. At least 15 pastors in Córdoba have come under threat over the last six months. A number have been forcibly displaced as a result of the threats against them and their families.

The campaigning group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), says the situation in Córdoba is part of a larger pattern of severe violations.

A new CSW report has detailed systematic attacks on religious leaders in areas under the control of armed groups.

Over 200 churches have been forcibly closed and more than 35 pastors have been assassinated in different parts of the country during the last three years.

CSW is urging the UK Parliament and the European Union to call for a formal investigation by the Colombian government.

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