months ago, National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas demanded that Alicia
Castilla leave her home in Arauca, in northeastern Colombia. On the evening of
Jan. 7, during a visit from the family’s pastor, assassins entered her home and
shot her in front of her three children and her father. She died immediately. The
guerrillas had killed Alicia’s husband, a lay-minister, two years earlier.
guerrillas told Alicia’s 18-year-old son, Hernán, that the rest of the family
had three days to leave the region. After that, they warned, the killers would
return and kill the other family members one by one.
was the widow of lay-evangelist Nelson Ramos, who was killed by the ELN in
January 2011. Nelson became a Christian two years before his death and often
shared the gospel in Saravena, a town near Colombia’s border with Venezuela. A
few months after his conversion, the ELN issued its first expulsion order
against him and his family.
to Hernán, the guerrillas never fully explained why they were so adamant about
driving the family out of the area. Nelson was shot to death in the family’s
home as his wife and two small daughters, now 9 and 6, watched.
Nelson’s death, Hernán declared that he would avenge his father. He intended to
join the Colombian military to gain training in weaponry, but he renounced his
vow after a July 2011 encounter with children whose parents had been killed
because of their Christian witness. Instead of seeking revenge, he was baptized
and became deeply involved in church activities.
mother was at a workshop for widows of martyred believers in December when ELN
guerrillas visited their home and warned them for the third time to leave the
area. Although Alicia was willing to move, her elderly father was not.
Alicia’s murder, government authorities refused to remove her body from the
crime scene for fear of retaliation by the ELN. Funeral-home workers finally
retrieved her body.
in 1964, the ELN is one of several illegal armed groups fighting for control of
the rich petroleum resources along the Colombia/Venezuela border. The guerrilla
groups use the Arauca area as a narcotrafficking route. They forcibly recruit
children into their ranks and persecute those who oppose them, including the
Source: World Watch Monitor
Posted: January 17, 2013