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Kogui Christians taken prisoner in Colombia

ICC Note:

Sixteen members of the indigenous people group, Kogui, in Colombia are being held prisoner in an effort to force them to renounce Christianity. They are not protected by the Columbian government because of indigenous laws.

11/13/09 Columbia (CSW) — Christians in the indigenous Kogui community have faced escalating tension in recent years – Kogui governors have repeatedly threatened to expel them from Kogui land, and some years ago a group of Kogui Christians were forced to leave the reserve. But last month things took a dramatic turn for the worse.

At a recent meeting called by the governor and his allies, the Christians were taken prisoner and the leaders proceeded to shout abuse at them throughout the night. They took the group to a more remote part of the reserve where they told them that they would be held prisoner until they renounced Christianity. Two of the infants being held are now seriously ill.

There are approximately 120 Christians within the Kogui population which numbers around 11,000. Sadly, the Colombian Government has been very slow to react and to protect these men, women and children.

The Colombian Law of Autonomy grants sweeping rights to indigenous communities to exercise their traditional law on their land. While this is positive in that it allows indigenous communities the right to preserve their traditions, culture and way of life, it also has caused alarm among many indigenous leaders who asked whether fundamental rights guaranteed in the Colombian Constitution and in international law will still be protected. It appears that the Colombian Government has decided that rights like freedom of religion, which all other Colombian citizens enjoy, will not be guaranteed for members of indigenous communities.

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