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Nun murdered at shelter home in Colombia

In the latest round of violence against Church figures, a 44-year-old nun was gunned down after two masked assailants barged into the Marcelino Shelter of Mothers Institute, which houses 50 elderly people and 45 young women.

Sr Marta Inés Vélez, of Antioquia, was murdered on Sunday night in Mogotes, in the Santander region by two masked men who entered and ran into the nun in one of the corridors.

"'Are you Sister Marta?' one of them asked," a witness said. "When she said yes, they shot her in the neck." The nun was rushed to a hospital, where she died.

Mayor Norberto Tijo of Mogotes said the nun's murder represented an attack against the life of the region. "The degree of violence we live in Colombia is terrible," he added. "The crime has definitely changed everyone's life in Mogotes because if they killed her, who worked only for the community, they can do anything to any one of us."

Sr Marta Vélez was the delegate of religious communities to the Constitutional Municipal Assembly, created in Mogotes to promote the peace process. The advent of this institution merited the Nobel Peace Prize for the municipality in 1998.

However, public order in the municipality has deteriorated over the past two months, following the death of two peasant leaders. Some 200 families organised a three-day demonstration to protest over the tension and violence caused by the guerrilla and self-defence groups.


18 Jul 2002