“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children
Rachel weeping for her children
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
Throughout history, there are examples of governments resorting to the most barbaric acts of violence to remain in power. In the Christian tradition the Gospel of Matthew reminds us of this reality through the story of the massacre of the holy innocents and the history of the Patriotic Union in Colombia is reminder that we still live it today.
The Gospel narrative of Matthew clearly places the massacre of the innocents in political context. Herod the Great, a king of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee for Imperial Rome, feared that the birth of Jesus would be a threat to his power. Fearing that his throne would be in jeopardy, he did what governments do best. He called on his army and “he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.” (Matthew 2:16)
During the time of Herod, this type of state repression was not uncommon. The historian Josephus, wrote that Herod “never stopped avenging and punishing every day those who had chosen to be of the party of his enemies.”
Today in Colombia the massacre continues.
The Patriotic Union (UP) was a legitimate political party that formed in 1985 when Colombia’s revolution army, The FARC, reached an agreement with Colombia’s President, Belisario Betancur. The Patriotic Union was presented as an exit for FARC members who believed the electoral process offered a solution to Colombians long lived civil war.
The UP quickly gained popularity throughout Colombia and in their first elections they elected 5 senators, 9 congress members, 14 state representatives, 23 mayors, and 351 city council members. But as the Gospel of Mathew reminds us, those that felt their power was in jeopardy responded. Since 1985 the UP have been victims of 30 massacres and 6,000 assassinations.
One of the massacres took place in Segovia, Antioquia. From 1985 to 1988, the city of Segovia was seeking political change and after the UP won the elections in March 1998. However, the “Herods” of the time did not like the change and on the night of November 11th, paramilitary forces with the help of the Colombian Army entered the city and killed 43 people and wounding forty. This barbaric act was specific in its mission, which was to rid the city of all UP supporters.
Today, the history of the UP is justly referred to as“Genocide,” given the U.N. General Assemblies’ definition as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Presently, almost all of their members have been murdered with the help of the United States through the School of Americas/WHINSC by Colombian state security forces and paramilitary forces. The few survivors that remain and the Human Rights Groups that seek to remember the victims, like Rachel in the Matthew story, “refuse to be consoled” until justice and reparations are a reality.
Since that day, Segovia has never been the same. For 22 years, Segovia has wept for her children in silence. However, on November 11th 2010, after 22 years, I watched as survivors of the massacre publicly commemorated it for the first time. Twenty two years of fear finally overcome.