KAIROS is deeply saddened and troubled by the recent murder of Father José Reinel Restrepo
View the Joint Letter ‘Re. the Assassination of Father José Reinel Restrepo of the municipality of Marmato, Colombia’
KAIROS is deeply saddened and troubled by the recent murder of Father José Reinel Restrepo, parish priest of the municipality of Marmato in the department of Caldas, Colombia. On September 2nd, the body of Father Restrepo was found shot dead near his motorcycle. The 36-year old priest had served for two years as the parish church of Maramoto. The persons responsible for his murder have not yet been identified, nor has the motive of the attack on Father Restrepo been determined.
Father Restrepo had been an outspoken opponent to the development of an open-pit gold mine that would require the relocation of the entire town of Maramoto. Shortly before he was killed, Father Restrepo spoke out publicly against the Canadian mining company’s plan, which he noted would undermine the livelihood of artisanal miners and cause tremendous damage to the community and the environment:
“The church is a defender of the poor, the church declares itself in defence of the poor, and the small scale miners of Marmato are at real risk of losing their jobs in this situation… The company doesn’t provide them with an alternative to their jobs because the company wants to use open-pit mining, displacing the population and exploiting this area in a short period of time.”
KAIROS has joined other Canadian civil society groups – labour, faith, social justice, academics and solidarity organizations, in sending a letter to the Canadian Embassy in Colombia expressing deep sadness about Father Restrepo’s death and concern that Canadian mining companies may be directly or indirectly related to the violence. The letter notes that shortly after Restrepo’s body was found, Canadian company Gran Colombia Gold issued a statement saying, “We hope the authorities will fully investigate this crime and swiftly establish what took place. The company reiterates our complete rejection of any acts of violence.”
Canadian social organizations are asking that the Embassy to cooperate with investigations, to urge the company to do the same, and to provide stronger guarantees and mechanisms to hold companies to account, particularly in the context of Colombia’s armed conflict.
On September 12, ten days after the murder of Father Restrepo, it was revealed that another priest, Gualberto Antonio Oviedo Arrieta, a Catholic priest in Capurganá (Chocó) was murdered. The priest, who was dedicated to helping the poor, was killed by machete. He was the sixth Catholic priest to be murdered in Colombia 2011. Details of the motives behind the murder are still not known. The Bishops of Colombia have issued a statement expressing sadness and concern that six priests have been murdered this year:
“[This is] a very worrying figure which shows the state of degradation in our society,” says Mgr Juan Vincent Cordoba Villota, Auxilliary Bishop of Bucaramanga and General Secretary of the Colombian Episcopate.
This May 1-3, KAIROS hosted an ecumenical conference on mining which brought together over 150 people from all parts of the world, including 50 people from Latin America, Asia and the Pacific and Africa to consider the impacts of Canadian mining on their communities. The conference statement (link) called for “greater and more committed solidarity and accompaniment of communities directly affected by mining”. The statement concludes by calling on “ the Canadian churches and churches globally, to take responsibility in speaking out more publicly on the issues and concerns raised during the gathering”. It is with grief and deep concern that we learn about these ongoing human rights violations and assassinations in areas where Canadian mining companies are operating.
For more information, please contact Rachel Warden, Latin America Partnerships coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org