BOGOTA, Colombia (EP) – In the midst of a violent “war” that drug cartels have declared on the government of Colombia, evangelist Luis Palau had record attendance at his evangelistic meetings in the capital city of Bogota, which he described as “grim, tense, and nervous.”
Palau arrived in Bogota just a few hours after the funeral of assassinated Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan August 20. Galan was killed by hit men of drug cartels who have declared “total and absolute war” on the Colombian government in response to the government’s efforts to halt the manufacture and distribution of cocaine and other drugs.
At a press conference, Colombian journalists asked Palau if he expected the recent violence to result in low attendance at the meetings, which were planned a year ago. “In times of national crisis even hardened people will realize that the only answer must be in God,” Palau said.
Record numbers turned out to attend the evangelistic meetings August 22-27; two of the meetings set new attendance records, according to a crusade official. The administrator for the coliseum where the meetings were held said he had never seen so many people there before. Thousands of people had to be turned away from the closing meeting Sunday, Palau officials reported.
Public events in Bogota scheduled at the same time as the Palau meetings, including a parade, were cancelled as a result of the recent violence there. Palau officials were unwilling to cancel the meetings at the city’s request, however, and so the police provided extra security for all the public meetings. Palau was guarded by members of the Colombian Department for Administrative Security (DAS), the Colombian equivalent of the U.S. Secret Service.
Security at the coliseum was stepped up as well. Everyone entering the coliseum was frisked and their bags checked. The added security measures did not prevent a bomb scare however. At one meeting the makings of a fire bomb were found in the coliseum, stated Palau officials. There was no violence during any of the meetings, however, and many members of the police force who were there responded to Palau’s invitation to receive Christ.
For security reasons, two former Colombian presidents were unable to attend a luncheon meeting that had been scheduled with Palau. Palau did speak to both former presidents by phone, however. The widow of assassinated presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan was unable to attend the Saturday evening meeting with her three sons; her security advisor suggested that it was too dangerous.
Christian organizations in Bogota also report that they are carrying on as usual. David Peacock of the Christian Literature Crusade Bookshop in the city said that Christian work there is continuing its “daily functions as normal,” as are other workers with Christian organizations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, Campus Crusade for Christ, and TEAM.
Peacock said that the recent Palau crusade was “a wonderful time” and “a highlight for the city.” He asked that Christians around the world pray for the safety of foreign workers and also pray that the situation will not worsen.