Orlando Valencia, RIP

/ 26 October 2005

The following news is painful to share, but so important to share widely! I reprint in its entirety, the letter from the Lutheran World Relief Columbia Program.

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Mr. Orlando Valencia was found murdered early yesterday, and early this morning his wife confirmed that the body was that of her husband and the father of their seven children.

Like you, we at LWR are deeply saddened by the disappearance and assassination of Orlando, a Colombian leader who we had expected to host at this past weekend’s Partnering for Peace conference in Chicago, where he was to represent the Red Ecuménica (Ecumenical Network), one of LWR's Colombian partner organizations.

Orlando Valencia was detained by local police on Saturday, October 15 as he was traveling with fellow community members and national and international human rights accompaniers to a regional community meeting. Shortly after leaving police presence the group was stopped again and Orlando Valencia was forcibly taken from the group by members of the illegal paramilitary forces. He was disappeared at that point, with no information on where he was taken or how to find him, until his body was discovered.

Many national and international organizations and individuals such as yourselves wrote letters and brought this issue to Colombian, U.S. and other officials. A mission with representatives from numerous governments and organizations went to investigate Orlando’s disappearance last week, and due to pressure by LWR advocates and many others this case has received much attention.

This tragic occasion gives us pause to recognize that what happened to Orlando happens to many others in Colombia, and all too often these tragedies go unnoticed. Orlando was an outstanding young leader, bringing hope to his community, working for the dignity and protection of his people, and his life was needlessly taken. Many other community members, leaders, wives, husbands, children, are taken from this earth and their passing goes unnoticed, for no other reason than that we simply were unaware of their lives.

It is in moments like these that as members of a global community of faith we embrace prayer and the grace of God as comfort and hope beyond all knowing.

We ask that you continue to hold Orlando’s family and the communities in his home region of Curvaradó, and all people in Colombia, in your prayers and the prayers of your community. Our Colombian brothers and sisters face many tragedies, and we hope that our own actions here in the U.S. can help to prevent such atrocities in the future. (sample prayer below)

We also recognize that the discovery of Orlando's body allows for a grieving that cannot take place when, as is the case for so many, nothing is ever learned about what has happened to the disappeared.

Together with our brothers and sisters in Colombia, we commit to striving for a world in which these types of tragedies cease in all of their forms.

A recent photo of Orlando has been posted on the LWR website at http://www.lwr.org/colombia/valencia. This photo was taken at the launch of a book produced by the Red Ecuménica (Ecumenical Network) entitled “A Cry from God: Truth, Justice and Reparation!” Orlando processed into the room with a candle bearing the word “reparation” as part of the celebration of the book and the hope for a true and lasting peace for Colombia.

If you would like to share your condolences with Orlando’s family, LWR will collect, translate and send sympathy cards to Orlando’s family and community. Please send your cards to:

LWR Colombia Program
700 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21230


Merciful God,

Console all who mourn the death of peacemaker Orlando Valencia. Comfort his widow, family and community in their grief. Keep us all mindful of other community members, leaders, wives, husbands, and children unknown to us, who are disappeared, killed and threatened each day due to on-going conflict and violence. Keep us steadfast as we work for your peace and your justice for all Colombians. Renew in us hope that your justice will one day roll down like mighty waters upon all of creation through Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace. </p><p>Amen</p>