Sunday, March 16, 2003

Light of the World Watch...

A priest ministers to the forgotten victims of the forgotten 39-year long civil war in Colombia:


Like most Colombians, the Rev. Mario Cárdenas is weary of years of terror in his country, the most violent in the Western Hemisphere. A four-decades-long civil war claims about 3,500 lives a year, mainly of innocent civilians, and forces a larger number of Colombians to flee their homeland.

For Cárdenas, who has been serving in the San Antonio Roman Catholic Archdiocese for five years, the untold story is the damage done to the children, especially to those whose parents have been killed in the conflict.

"What will happen to these children?" the 34-year-old priest asked during a recent visit to his country. If these children are Colombia's future, may God save Colombia."...

Cárdenas felt he had to do something to relieve the suffering of these "forgotten victims." With the help of Rafael Duarte, a boyish-looking 41-year-old priest and a longtime friend in Málaga, Cárdenas founded and is overseeing the growth of a nonprofit organization called Children Orphaned by the Violence in Colombia, or COVIC. Created in San Antonio 19 months ago, COVIC's aim is to feed, clothe and educate thousands of children who have at least one murdered parent.

The group, which has its own Web site, estimates that some 40,000 children in the South American nation have been orphaned by the civil war. Some Colombians insist that the figure is low; they say that many families, especially in the countryside, don't report the killings of loved ones for fear of retaliation.

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