May 23, 1998
Most Reverend Jaime Prieto Amaya
Bishop of Barrancabermeja
Chairman, Comité Episcopal de Pastoral Social
Conferencia Episcopal de Colombia
Apartado Aéreo 7448
Santafé de Bogotá
FAX: (57 1) 311-5693
Dear Bishop Prieto,
I write to express the concern of the United States Catholic Conference concerning the raid on the offices of the Inter-Congregational Commission of Justice and Peace, carried out on May 13 by members of the Colombian Armed Forces.
Although this is not the most egregious of the human rights violations that you yourself addressed in your May 14 statement, Let Us Stop This Dirty War, it is a particularly ominous one. The Inter-Congregational Commission, an entity of the Colombian Conference of Religious, serves as the coordinator for some fourteen other non-governmental organizations in developing the Nunca Más project, the national effort to document and publish the true story of the human rights violations of the past thirty years.
Ominous, because this illegal and vicious raid, during which religious women and others in the offices were forced to kneel while soldiers examined files, occurred just over two weeks after Bishop Juan Gerardi of Guatemala, chief coordinator of his country's Nunca Más project, was brutally murdered. It is clear that there are those in various places who are determined not to let the truth be known, and are prepared to use any means either to prevent the truth from being published or to punish those courageous persons seeking to recover the "historical memory" of those who have been victimized.
I am pleased that, among the private groups that are helping to finance the Colombian Nunca Más project is the Catholic Relief Services of this Conference and I commend them for this support. Please accept this letter as an expression of our solidarity with you and your fellow bishops of the Colombian Episcopal Conference. I know you will not hesitate to let me know if we can be of assistance to you in your apostolic work with the social concerns department.
With assurances of prayers, I remain
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, USCC Committee on International Policy