Canadian Peace Activist Denied Entry into Colombia

Dear friends and supporters:

All of you wished me well with prayers and some with financial support or I had some contact with you regarding and prior to my departure to Colombia to work with the Christian Peacemaker Team in Barrancabermeja from March 20 until June 18. This was to include two weeks of orientation and language study in Bogota prior to going to Barranca.

The following is a short story about what happened to me. I am writing this from home.

You know that I went to Bogota, Colombia this past Wednesday, March 20 to study Spanish for a couple of weeks and then join the Christian Peacemaker Team in Barranca until June 18. Well, I never got past the Bogota airport. At 9:30 pm Wednesday, March 20 my passport number was immediately matched with a list on paper by the immigration officer. I was referred to and held by the DAS (Security police – in suits, no guns) who would not stamp my passport for a visitors visa, was denied time to visit the Canadian Embassy and was held for the night at the airport and then put on the morning plane back to Houston and then to Toronto on Thursday, March 21.

No reasons were given at first except that – “it is Colombian law to deny anyone they see fit” – until after my Colombian host who was waiting for us (me and two other CPTers), a worker for the Mennonite church made an official statement about the nature of my work there. Then the chief of police changed his tune to say that a visitors visa would not allow these kinds of activities eg. accompaniment of displaced

and threatened people or even language study. I tried to phone the embassy in the morning before leaving but no connection was made. The team in Barranca and my coordinators in the U.S. were contacted by cell phone by my host and I believe the team tried to contact the Canadian embassy, but nothing worked. The security people arranged with Continental airlines, my carrier to issue my ticket with a new date and I did get to go home with all my belongings. I was not threatened or harmed but nothing I could say or do was going to change my expulsion.

I was also strongly urged by the chief of police Thursday morning, to sign a letter of reasons for expulsion that had Fanny Kertzman’s name (Colombian Ambassador to Canada – in Ottawa) prominently placed as the author quoting various titles of sections of laws. I objected to their main reason that a visitors visa did not allow for my activities – the chief said that I could not even study language. I refused to sign the letter because I felt it was a lie, and so I did not receive a copy as I had been promised.

I have written a detailed log of events and sent it to the CPT coordinators. If any of you would like to see it let me know. I have included suspicions that I was targetted for activism with the Canada Colombia Solidarity Campaign (CCSC) who I went to Colombia with on an educational tour in August. Since then I have sent urgent action letters to Ambassador Kertzman with my signature and address. I now, like other CCSC folks, receive regular email from the Colombian Embassy, including one on March 1st addressed directly to me saying that I did not have all the facts on Colombia and then proceeding to make a long list of FARC atrocities without one mention of paramilitaries. I did reply to that message saying that I did not support any armed actors and that far from their advocacy of more arms it would be better to disarm everyone.

An American couple – CPTers who were going with the team for 5 months got through ok. less than an hour before me, but they had applied for and received “religious workers” visas in the U.S. I wonder now whether I would even be approved in Canada by the Colombian Embassy. I have notified my M.P.’s office and his secretary was going to email the Canadian embassy with the facts that my passport number was on a list and that I was denied enough time to meet with someone from the embassy.

The chief of police made it very clear right away that I would not have time to contact the embassy before being sent back – the plane was leaving before the embassy opened.

I am very sad about not being able to be with the Colombian people who I have grown to love, but I would not change anything that I have done and am more resolved than ever to keep working on their behalf from here.

In Peace, Murray Lumley

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