Rebels orphan three for their parents’ faith

By January 15, 2013

Colombia (MNN) — Three newly-orphaned children, all 18 years old and younger, are re-living tragedy in northeast Colombia.

In January 2011, National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels murdered lay evangelist Nelson Ramos in front of his wife and two small daughters, says Open Doors USA. Last week, all of the children watched as ELN guerillas entered their home and shot their mother, Alicia Castilla.

Conveniently located along the border with Venezuela, rebel groups use Colombia's Aruaca department for drug trafficking. Insurgents hold many in sway with their far-reaching power, including officials: they refused to remove Castilla's body from her home for fear of reprisals from the ELN.

"The local authorities understand who the guerrillas consider their enemy, and they prefer not to visit certain places," said an Open Doors worker who cannot be named for security reasons.

The violent Jan. 7 attack came as Alicia Castilla, her children, and her father were finishing an evening devotional in their Arauca home. Before leaving, rebels told Hernán Ramos, Castilla's 18-year old son, the family had three days to leave the region.

"We must pray that Hernán's heart and decisions don't change, that everything be transformed into blessing and not a chain of blood and hate," said the Open Doors coordinator for Arauca.

"We pray for his protection, and also for his little sisters Rosmy and Jackeline, ages 9 and 6, who now face life without either of their parents."

In the early months following his father's death, Hernán Ramos sought revenge. He planned to join the Colombian military, gain training in weaponry, and avenge his father's murder.

But in July 2011, after an Open Doors event where he ministered to children who had lost one or both parents to persecution, Hernán renounced his earlier vow. He was also baptized and became deeply involved in church activities.

Ask God to protect the newly-orphaned Ramos children from terrorist threats and violence.

Rebel violence has forced hundreds of indigenous Christians from their homes, moving Colombia up a rank on Open Doors' World Watch List. Two pastors were killed in 2012, and Nelson Ramos was killed the year prior for sharing his faith.

"When Nelson preached, people were attracted to the Gospel," said the Open Doors worker. "He was always talking about his faith."

Pray for perseverance for all Colombian believers who suffer for their faith. Check out our Featured Links section for more ways to help the Persecuted Church.

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