Colombian paramilitaries torture and murder Benedicta Joya Aponte while seeking her brother

Note from KAIROS: Just days before an Ecumenical Forum on Peace, May 18-19,  we received terrible news from church partners in Colombia. Benedicta Joya Aponte, a campesina woman and sister of a local priest, was brutally murdered in their home.  Paramilitaries came to the door looking for her brother, Father Pedro Elias Joya Aponte, who was not there because he was on his way to the Ecumenical Peace Forum.  Finding her alone, they tortured and then killed her.

Below is the translated urgent action we received from partners describing this horrendous crime.  The final sentences of this partners’ statement read: We believe in resurrected Jesus, who gives us the conviction that Benedicta will live on in our struggle and in the work of Pedro. Death shall not have the last word.

We will have more information about this urgent action and the Ecumenical Forum on Peace posted soon. We note that this news arrives just as Prime Minister Harper leaves for talks with Colombia, with which Canada shares a free trade agreement.

**IMPORTANT NOTE**: Unfortunately, and as is so often the case, the text below has graphic details. This is the reality with which our partners live and so we include the details here, but please be forewarned.

Message from our Colombian partners:

How long will we have to send out these urgent actions about the violations of the right to life of the residents of this country? No more war against the Colombian people.

Stones with names at an August 2010 vigil against militarization and war in Colombia: These rocks represent missing and murdered community members in Colombia.  Photo: John Lewis/ KAIROS

August 2010 vigil against militarization and war in Colombia: These rocks represent missing and murdered community members in Colombia.
Photo: John Lewis/ KAIROS

The Ecumenical Table for Peace (Mesa Ecuménica por la Paz) and the Coalition of Social Movements and Organizations of Colombia (Coalición de Movimientos y Organizaciones Sociales de Colombia – COMOSOC) denounce before the national and international community the despicable murder of Benedicta Joya Aponte and the attempted murder of her brother, father Pedro Elias Joya Aponte.

Members of Christian and social movements are outraged by another assassination attempt against the life of individuals who are not linked to the armed conflict. With great sorrow and a profound rejection of this violence, we report that the night of May 14th, at about 10pm, members of the paramilitary group Los Rastrojos arrived at the humble dwelling of father Joya, in the community of Montonera, municipality of Carcasi. Father Joya had left his house and was passing through Malaga as he headed to Bogota to attend the Ecumenical Forum for Peace.

When they did not find him, they killed his sister, Benedicta Joya Aponte, a 75-year-old campesina, who was the only person who kept father Joya company. Benedicta was stripped of her clothes, killed with a sharp blade, possibly sexually harassed, and sprayed with fuel. Her body and the surrounding area were then lit on fire. Her blood was used to write “guerrillas get out” on the wall.

The process to gather information and an initial inquiry by the National Police Force lasted 9 hours. The body was taken to the National Institute for Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences where an autopsy was carried out. The burial took place on May 16th, in the afternoon.

Father Joya has been a tireless fighter for human rights in his communities, for peace, and for the defense of the environment, food safety, and the fight against genetically modified organisms. He has been threatened a number of times. As soon as he found out the news, he was interviewed by a number of local and regional media, and he bravely declared that he will continue his work for peace and in defense of human rights. He called for the creation of the Human Rights Committee of the Centro Oriente Region in the city of Malaga. It is significant to note that, in December, Father Joya attended the Agriculture Forum in Bogota as part of the COMOSOC delegation.  The forum was organized by UNDP and the National University of Colombia as requested by the Havana Roundtable.

The house where this atrocious crime took place against this defenceless woman was under construction for a popular education training centre for regional leaders of the Peace, Development and Environment Corporation of the province. It is without doubt that this murder affects the personal safety of the father and all those who are linked to this community project.

We demand that the authorities guarantee the safety of these people ensure that they are able to continue their work. Furthermore, we call on all church and social movements to show their solidarity in this struggle for peace and the defense of life in the territory. With regards to the State, we demand the most efficient investigation to get clarity on the crime relating to Benedicta Joya Aponte, the threats and attempted murder of Father Pedro Elias Joya Aponte, and to get justice for this new crime against humanity, in which human dignity of the human has been violated.

We demand, clearly and explicitly, the total dismantling of paramilitary groups along with all their private and State links, and the solid support of all dialogue processes which may lead to the incorporation of guerrilla groups in political and legal life, with the purpose of some day achieving a real and sustainable peace, sustained by social justice and a real ethics.

We believe in the resurrected Jesus, who gives us the conviction that Benedicta will live on in our struggle and in the work of Pedro. Death shall not have the last word.

[We address this statement to the following people:]

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, President of Colombia

ANGELINO GARZÓN, Vice-President of Colombia

FERNANDO CARRILLO FLÓREZ, Minister of Internal Affairs

MARÍA ANGELA HOLGUÍN, Minister of Foreign Relations

RUTH STELLA CORREA, Minister of Justice


ALEJANDRO ORDÓÑEZ, Procurador General


Please send all support letters in response to this urgent action to the following e-mail addresses:

President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón
Presidente de la República
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26, Palacio de Nariño, Bogotá, D.C.
Fax: (+57 1) 596 0631

Angelino Garzón
Vicepresidente de la República (Encargado del Programa Presidencial por los Derechos Humanos)

Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C.
Fax: (+57 1) 596 0651
Phone: +571 334 4507

 Eduardo Montealegre
Fiscal General de la Nación

Diagonal 22B No. 52-01, Bogotá, D.C.
Fax: (+57 1) 570 20 00 Ext 1113; (+57 1) 414 90 00


Filed in: Gender Justice/Women of Courage, Latin America

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