From Persecuted to Polarized: What US Evangelicals Can Learn from Colombian Christians

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In the Western Hemisphere’s longest armed conflict, suffering has often inspired evangelical solidarity. Now the body of Christ is succumbing to self-harm.

For 70 years, Colombia has been a nation at war with itself.

Marxist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, drug cartels, and national police and military have ripped families limb from limb and scarred the national consciousness, running up a death toll of over 1 million souls and driving more than 8 million people from their homes—just in the past generation.

In late 2016, for a brief moment, the international community thought that the violence might be nearing an end as a delegation from the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) guerrillas signed peace accords with the government of then-President Juan Manuel Santos.

Cameras flashed. Santos got a Nobel Peace Prize. And the killings continued.

Year to date, there have already been 68 massacres in Colombia. Since the peace accords were signed in Havana, Cuba, more than 440 community leaders have been murdered. Many of these community leaders are themselves pastors, whose resistance of violence and advocacy in favor of dispossessed campesinos (rural farmers) put them in the crosshairs of armed groups.

Their stories have begun to be told, most recently in “The Role of the Evangelicals in the Colombian Conflict,” a report submitted to the Colombian Truth Commission earlier this month. Nevertheless, this landmark report, which chronicles events from 1959 to 2016, is just the tip of the iceberg.

About 1,800 years ago, the church father Tertullian pointed out how Christianity had flourished in spite of vicious imperial persecution, defiantly declaring, “We multiply when we are reaped by you: the blood of Christians is seed” (Tertullian, Apologeticus 50.13). Since the blood of believers has soaked Colombian soil, by Tertullian’s logic …

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