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Church Historians as a Source: New Details on Historical Attacks in Colombia

Hughes/Trujillo in Bogota, Colombia

In November 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Bogota, Colombia on a work trip. Having researched terrorist attacks targeting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for War with the Remnant, I was aware of multiple attacks that took place in and around Bogota in the 1980s and 1990s. I reached out to some local Church leaders to learn more, in hopes of being able to track down and meet with one or two leaders while in Bogota. I was eventually referred to Brother Jorge Trujillo, a former Church Area Historian (2000-2002, covering Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador) who’d held several church leadership positions.

Brother Trujillo and I met for dinner near my hotel one evening. We spent a couple hours discussing several topics in what proved to be a very rewarding experience. Brother Trujillo expressed that as early as 1976, some leftists in Bogota believed missionaries worked for the CIA, as they thought the CIA recruited heavily in Utah and that missionaries sent information back to the CIA through satellite dishes at LDS meetinghouses. He walked me through the history of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, or ELN) and the group’s origins in Bucaramanga, Colombia. He shared important details about individual attacks against chapels in the 1980s and early 1990s, elaborating on information recorded in U.S. Department of State reports and local newspaper articles or radio broadcasts. He also shared information on attacks not recorded in U.S. Government reports, building a more comprehensive picture of the security situation in Bogota when the Church was a common target of leftist groups. He provided new information, as well as an important referral to another leader, about an attack at a meetinghouse in Medellin, Colombia on January 23, 1994, an attack discussed in War with the Remnant. While Saints and Church property in Venezuela suffered relatively few terrorist attacks in recent decades, Brother Trujillo explained that government forces seized or occupied three or four chapels there.

Overall, the interview helped me to appreciate the wealth of knowledge Church Historians hold; they can be an excellent source for unique material, perspective, and referrals to others who can provide additional details about events. The meeting enhanced my research, as it verified some dates and identified some reasons for information gaps regarding attacks, as members did not always report terrorism incidents.

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©2020 by Matthew Allen Hughes