British pastor praises Colombian president

British Pastor Wes Richards greeted the President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe at the 14th Annual Convention of one of the world’s fastest growing churches, Misión Carismática Internacional (International Charismatic Mission or MCI) in Bogota, which has more than 200,000 members.

Since 2003, members of the Windsor-based King’s Church International, have travelled to Bogota for the conference and this year, 17 people from the church took part in the visit this week.

The leaders of MCI church, Pastors Cesar and Claudia Castellanos, founded the church in 1983 with just eight people.

The church is actively involved in bringing change to Colombia. Claudia Castellanos is a Senator in Colombia for the centre-right party, Radical Change, elected in 2006. Other elected members of the church include Congressman and Pastor Luis Barrios and three members of the Bogota City Council.

In front of 16,000 people from 30 nations at the El-Campin Coliseum, Pastor Richards said, "It is a great privilege to bring you greetings on behalf of the international delegates to this conference."

Noting that after many years of suffering from terrorism and drug cartels, Colombia has begun to experience change.

He said, "Your resolute leadership has been central in stemming a floodtide of lawlessness. You have also given your countrymen and women real hope for a brighter, more prosperous and peaceful future."

As a result, the economy has grown and tourism is increasing, with cruise ships returning to its Caribbean Coast.

The President asked Pastor Richards for his help in highlighting the progress that Colombia is making. "In the past, there was a year when 256 union workers were assassinated, in 2008 this was reduced to 36, but with 140 terrorists put in jail – Pastor Richards, help us to communicate this."

Since President Uribe was elected in 2002, kidnappings have gone down more than 80 percent and the murder rate has seen a 40 per cent drop.

In July 2008, the French-Colombian politician, Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans were freed from more than five years of captivity, following a succesful mission by Colombia’s special forces.

President Uribe was recently award the American Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service to Colombia. Elected on the theme “Strong hand, and big heart”, Uribe retains the highest domestic approval ratings for a world leader, and was the first Colombian leader in the modern era to win re-election in 2006.

Pastor Richards said that "Colombia has become a model for countries seeking reconciliation and the establishment of a society based on respect for human dignity."

King’s Church International is a non-denominational, multi-ethnic church of more than 600 people, is a member of the Evangelical Alliance and serves as a Resource Church for Alpha International.