Father Lain Joins Guerillas -- Open Letter to the Colombian People

September 25, 2007

Following a moral imperative, born of the awareness that as a revolutionary I do not belong to myself,
but to the exploited masses in Colombia and in all oppressed countries, and at the same time being a-
ware of the public character which the priestly function still holds in our society, I fulfill my duty
as orientator of the people by joining the guerrillas of the ELN, and partaking in their line of ac-
tion and their social and political programs. In making public this decision, I renew the irrevocable
commitment I made upon my ordination as a priest, of consecration and fidelity to the poor and the
oppressed, and of oneness with them in their struggle to liberate themselves from all slavery. I be-
lieve that my true priestly consecration begins now. It exacts total sacrifice so that all men may
live, and live fully.
It is not as a casual coincidence but as a necessary consequence that I make this announcement on the
fourth anniversary of the physical death of Camilo Torres Restrepo -- a day that the Colombian people
celebrate with renewed spirit of combat and faith in the triumph of their cause. His word and example
continue to be a banner of redemption, a cry of hope for the exploited, a watchword in guerrilla com-
bat, a light along the road which does not die. He is alive in the hearts of the poor and oppressed,
and within each man who fights for justice and human brotherhood.
Colombia's oligarchy erred once again when it tried by hiding Camilo's body to deprive the people of
his presence. Dead or alive, Camilo belongs to the people and no one can take him away, nor replace
him, nor can they change his place. He gave himself to them in his full human dimension and they ac-
cepted him as their own forever -- a prophet of our times, a revolutionary in his entirety, a new man
of that future society which is already coming into being. Through his example Camilo sets a special
seal upon the path of commitment taken by many revolutionaries. It is to his spirit and to his think-
ing that I owe the joy and sense of commitment I now express in the decision to give myself over until
death for the liberation of the Colombian people.
I arrived in Colombia approximately three years ago as a newly ordained priest. I came with a single
idea -- to share the life, the aspirations and frustrations of the dispossessed masses who are de-
prived of their most basic human rights -- even the right to life itself. I came here to share this
in solidarity with them -- to share it to the very end.
With this in mind I worked as a laborer, first in the factories of Bogota and later in those of Carta-
gena. Thus I experienced first-hand the exploitation and the misery suffered by the vast majority of
these people, and joined their struggle while fulfilling my priestly duties in the poor sections of
these cities. My only crime and the cause of my expulsion from the country at the hands of the oli-
father Lain Joins Guerrillas
Domingo Lain, a Roman Catholic priest of Spanish nationality, was an active member of Colom-
bia'a radical Golconda group of priests, laymen, and Marxists, until his expulsion from the
country by the oligarchic National Front government on April 19, 1969. Recently it was re-
vealed that Lain had clandestinely re-entered the country to join the National Liberation
Army (ELN), which operates a guerrilla front in a mountainous region near the Venezuelan bor-
der. The announcement was released by the ELN's urban net on February 15, the fourth anni-
versary of the death in combat of former ELN member Camilo Torres Restrepo -- the famous
guerrilla priest whose revolutionary thought and actions have been a central influence in
the development of Golconda.
Lain, unlike Camilo, has not been laicized and retains his priestly status in the guerrilla.
Close observers regard him as a serious theologian, a careful student of Marxism, and a per-
son of great charisma. Thus he brings important qualities to the ELN leadership in a time
of internal dissension. The significance of Lain's move suggests the possibility that offi-
cial repression, already a serious problem for the Golconda group, may increase. This is
all the more likely as Colombia's presidential and legislative elections, against which Gol-
conda has urged a "belligerent" popular abstention, are approaching in April.
NACLA here reproduces the letter in which Lain explained to the Colombian people the reasons
which led him to join the ELN. Hitherto the full text has not appeared in published form
either in the Colombian or in the foreign media.
garchy was the crime of fighting for the right of all men to life, to creative work, to adequate liv-
ing conditions, to education, and to respect for their abused human dignity. I was accused of being
subversive because I confronted unceasingly the oppressive violence exercised by an unjust, inhuman
social system, and because I called upon all those dispossessed and exploited to unite and to rebel.
In signing a revolutionary document together with my fellow priests in Buenaventura, I made public my
decision to give my strength and my life for the liberation of the Colombian people and for the crea-
tion of a socialist society. Thus my joining the ELN is but the logical consequence of a whole pro-
cess of commitment to my people. Today, in the Colombian mountains, in union with men who have begun
a struggle for liberation in an uncommon gesture of real love for the people, I reaffirm the decision
to offer my life upon the altar of this noble cause. I do so fully aware that death is present in a
very real way in the daily activity of a guerrillero.
I choose socialist revolution because it is the only way to attack at the very roots the problems of
man's exploitation by man, and of individual and collective alienation. Only a society built upon
just social, political and economic laws can turn the utopian dream of fraternity among men into real-
ity. This fraternity is a fundamental human imperative. It is, therefore, a Christian onef
Faced with the reactionary and oppressive violence which characterizes the system that exists in Col-
ombia and throughout Latin America today, there is no alternative other than revolutionary, liberating violence. I have taken the path of armed struggle for this reason. Violence has no religious creed.
It is neither atheist nor Christian. It is rather the result of economic, historical afid sociological
laws; of the formation and development of societies, and the relationships of members and groups with-
in society. It is, therefore, a right of the oppressed and exploited in order to overcome the condi-
tions forced upon them.
While stating this, I cannot fail to denounce the brutality and injustice of the Colombian regime
which maintains itself solely through violence and intimidation in order to keep the majority of the
population subjected to the greatest misery and most inhuman exploitation. I also unmask the Church
as an accomplice to this -- the defender and strongest support of this regime, abusing in this way the
hold she still maintains upon the conscience of vast sections of the proletarian masses -- a Church
which condemns violence and rebellion on the part of the poor while condoning and co-existing with the violence and repression exercized by the rich, exploiting classes. . . .I have become part of the ELN precisely because of its political and social programs and its men in
whom Camilo's thought and image continue to grow and develop. With whatever weight my witness and
gift of self might give to my words I denounce the campaign which the oligarchy and the army have un-
leashed against the members and directors of the ELN. It is untrue and unworthy, insulting and de-
ceiving to the Colombian masses.
In their attempt to do this the enemies of the people have made use of the endless governmental means
and mass communications media available to them and have relied upon the help of pseudo-revolution-
aries and of those who have betrayed the people, for they have begun to see that the justness and
greatness of a truly popular cause can no longer be overcome by the mere force of arms.
For this reason plans have been made for the political destruction of the ELN through a campaign of
vicious slander and thus, by destroying its prestige, to cripple its growing strength among the pro-
letarian masses and rebel portions of the population. But such plans fail to recognize that the iden-
tification of Camilo, the Colombian people and the ELN are forged in an indestructible unity.
Like Camilo, I have found in the ELN a fitting political line, an utter honesty, a faith in the peo-
ple, and a total surrender to the cause of that people's liberation, all of which place it in the
vanguard of the struggle and in the hearts of the exploited masses.
Lastly, I extend an invitation to serious study and reflection to all honest revolutionaries -- cam-
pesinos, workers, intellectuals, students -- who are sincerely seeking a commitment to their people.
An historical responsibility has fallen to them -- that of the orientation of the masses along the
true path of liberation, avoiding the senseless sacrifice of lives and efforts that has always fallen
upon them.
The masses are well aware of hunger, injustice and exploitation. They need living examples which
will give form to their rebelliousness and channel their anguished desire for liberation. Camilo's
glorious sacrifice has given them this. He has indicated for once and for all time the road to re-
demption for all revolutionaries and oppressed people. His example commits us and inspires us more
each day.
Today is the fourth anniversary of his death, and the oligarchy with their henchmen are preparing to
act out the electoral farce. From the mountains washed with the blood of our martyrs I invite all the
men and women of Colombia to organize and to prepare themselves for the final struggle, following the
banner and example of the one who taught us so well, Camilo Torres Restrepo.
With the strength that his glorious death has given us I repeat, together with my companeros,
From the mountains, February 15, 1970

Tags: Golconda Priest Group, Colombia, liberation theology, ELN, Domingo Laín

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