Though it is hard to imagine the situation in Colombia getting much worse, church leaders and human rights groups are warning that the violence is in fact increasing, and that a “dirty war” like the one in El Salvador in the 1980s and in Chile and Argentina in the 1970s is likely to erupt.
Colombia’s human rights record is already among the most dismal in the world. Some 3,500 Colombians are murdered in political-related violence annually; 40,000 have been killed in the past decade. Colombia has the second largest number of displaced persons in the world: nearly 2.5 million, second only to Sudan.
So far the crisis in Colombia has not captured the attention of the American public or of mainline churches the way the crises in Central America did in the 1980s.
Chris Herlinger, former senior writer for Church World Service, is a contributing writer for National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report. He is the coauthor, with Paul Jeffrey, of books on Haiti and Darfur, published by Seabury. A third book, Food Fight: Struggling for Justice in a Hungry World, has just been released.