Answers come slowly about why 117 villagers died in Colombian church
Fighting between Colombia's left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups continued to escalate last week, and the tiny village of Bojaya, accessible only by river, became a major battleground. About 117 villagers, more than a third of them children, were killed in the village church as they prayed for peace. A homemade mortar came through the roof of the church, exploding above the altar. "It sounded first like thunder and then felt like an earthquake," said 50-year-old farmer Octaviano Palacio. "When I recovered my senses I began to look for my family. I saw my wife, dead, and then began looking for my children." They died, too, and Palacio is recovering from shrapnel wounds in his neck and back and a disfigured arm.

"The bishop of Quibdo blamed all three sides: the [leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC] for firing the mortar, the paramilitaries for endangering the civilians by deploying fighters in the village, and the government for 'doing nothing to avoid this tragedy,' " reports the Associated Press.

The town is "reportedly strewn with corpses and with wounded awaiting evacuation," says the AP. According to the BBC, by the time the Colombian military reached the town five days after the attack, "it had become a ghost town."

President Andres Pastrana singled out the guerrillas for blame. "What happened here was genocide on the part of the FARC," he said. The paramilitary group fighting the FARC, the Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), is officially outlawed but is reportedly supported by the national military.

FARC leaders aren't taking responsibility for the action, but say they lament it. "There was never any intention on our part to harm the community," the group said, blaming the AUC for being in the village in the first place.

Although this was Colombia's deadliest attack since its civil war began 38 years ago, it's far from the only incident of an attack on the country's Christian community. In March, for example, guerrillas assassinated Isaias Duarte Cancino, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Cali.

U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom takes aim at U.S. policies
The informative annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was released Monday, but much of what it says has been said before. The report blasted China, Indonesia, North Korea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and other countries for persecuting religious minorities, but also criticized the U.S. government for not doing much about it. "Actions taken by the executive branch in response to serious violations of religious freedom have been sporadic," the report says. "The [State] Department is without a plan as to how to implement IRFA's central statutory purpose." The panel again urged the State Department to add Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan to its list of "countries of particular concern." India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam should also be more closely monitored, said the group. But just watching and reporting isn't enough, says the USCIRF. The State Department has been reluctant to increase sanctions against the worst offenders, and has repeatedly disregarded USCIRF recommendations to "use the full range of available policy tools, especially in the case of China and Sudan, to take additional action."

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