Priest Shot in Cold Blood in Colombia

Worked for Peace near Medellin

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MEDELLIN, Colombia, SEPT. 22, 2002 ( A Catholic priest who worked for peace in the Medellin area was killed in cold blood Friday by members of a militia group, officials said.

Father José Luis Arroyave Restrepo had mediated a conflict among the residents of the Commune No. 13 of west Medellin and directed neighborhood development programs. He was the fourth Church figure murdered this year in Colombia. One media report listed his age as 49.

Father Arroyave was killed in a section of St. Xavier, where he went to distribute parish leaflets. Witnesses reported that a young man with a sawed-off shotgun went up to a private van in which the priest was traveling and shot him.

The Colombia office of the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights condemned the crime and reminded the state that «its obligations of respect and guarantee of human rights recognized by international pacts impose on it the duty to investigate, judge and punish those responsible for the crime.»

The conflict between the paramilitary and militiamen of the area has worsened this year; 373 deaths have occurred since January.

At the request of the mayor’s office, Father Arroyave had served as a liaison with armed groups and worked with public officials to tackle the educational problems resulting from the conflict.

Violence has claimed the lives of other Catholic Church figures in Colombia. Archbishop Isaías Duarte of Cali was killed last March, after officiating at a number of weddings. Sister Marta Inés Vélez Serna, directress of a home for the elderly and poor in Mogotes, was shot to death in July.

Last April, a group of gunmen killed Father Juan Ramón Núñez while he was celebrating Mass in his parish in the department of Huila.

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