Colombia Drops Terrorism Case Against American Missionary

Months after peace treaty with FARC rebels, Russell Stendal no longer stands accused of collaboration.
Colombia made peace with its primary rebel group last December. But one of its well-known missionaries still stood accused of plotting terrorism with them.
Until last month, when a Bogota judge finally threw out the charge of rebellion levied against Russell Stendal in 2015. The American missionary was accused of collaborating with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the guerrilla group that warred against the Colombian government until signing a controversial peace treaty late last year.
Stendal, 61, is the son of linguists with Wycliffe Bible Translators who moved their family to Colombia in 1964, when he was about 8 years old.
When Stendal was in his late 20s, he was kidnapped by the FARC and spent more than four months living among them, mostly with a rope slip-knotted around his neck. Before an anonymous donor paid $55,000 for his ransom, he shared the gospel with his captors several times.
He went on to preach the gospel to all sides of the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running conflict.
The American embassy warned him not to return to Colombia, but he did anyway. Stendal founded the Colombia for Christ ministry, and regularly traveled through conflict areas distributing Bibles, Christian books, and solar-powered radios fix-tuned to his stations that broadcast the gospel throughout Colombia.
The September dismissal of the case against Stendal by Bogota’s Circuit Criminal Court No. 15 ends what his attorney described as a long, drawn-out series of legal maneuverings following his February 2015 arrest. The ruling cannot be appealed.
The judge in the initial hearing, held one day after police detained Stendal under a secret warrant, threw out the charge. But chief sectional prosecutor Angel Manuel Castillo …Continue reading…