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Marian statue untouched by car bombing at army base in Colombia
A statue of the Virgin Mary was unharmed by an attack carried out against the 30th Brigade of Colombia’s National Army. / Eduardo Enrique Zapateiro Altamiranda

Cucuta, Colombia, Jun 19, 2021 / 05:19 am (CNA).

A statue of the Virgin Mary was unharmed by an attack carried out against the 30th Brigade of Colombia’s National Army on Wednesday.

A car bomb exploded June 16 at the military base in Cúcuta, injuring 36 people.

The Diocese for the Military of Colombia said on social media that he intact image serves to “maintain the faith among the soldiers,”  and that there’s a feeling of “a miracle, of life and faith.” 

The military diocese pointed out that the “Virgin of Protection”, which remained intact after the explosions, “was handmade by the soldiers who are stationed with the Land Operations Battalion No. 9, right where the truck with explosives was.”

“The history of this Virgin dates back to December 2020, when it was determined that it would be located in that place, which was declared holy ground,” the diocese explained.

The wife of Brigadier General Oliverio Pérez Mahecha, Patricia Pérez, proposed the design for the image of the Virgin, which was made of recyclable material.

The commander of the Colombian National Army, General Eduardo Zapateiro Altamiranda, said on Twitter that “violence will never overcome divine protection.”

“Close to the explosion generated by the terrorist action in the 30th Brigade, solidly in place and unsullied, the Virgin Mother of the country’s soldiers protected us and will protect us,” he added.

The commander of the Army’s 2nd Division, General Marco Evangelista Pinto, confirmed to the Colombian news outlet Noticias Caracol that the explosions occurred inside the garrison, very close to the entrance, mainly affecting the barracks and offices.

In a statement to the press, Defense Minister Diego Molano “vehemently condemned this vile act that intended to inflict bodily harm on our soldiers.” Molana said the initial hypothesis is that the National Liberation Army, a left-wing guerrilla group, “is behind this insane and vile act.”

“The involvement of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is also a subject of the investigation,” he added.

The Colombian bishops’ conference deplored the attack and expressed its “deep sorrow for the people who have been injured and for the damage caused.”

“Nothing justifies these insane and blind acts, which deeply wound human dignity and constitute a very serious offense against the whole of humanity, as they are one of the most brutal forms of violence,” the conference said.

The Colombian bishops assured their prayers for the “victims of this cruel attack” and their closeness and solidarity to the families and loved ones of those injured.

“We invite the Catholic community to continue praying so that all violence between us is ended and that the united Colombian people can overcome evil through the power of good,” they said.

Bishop José Libardo Garcés Monsalve of Malaga-Soata, who is also serving as apostolic administrator of Cúcuta, said that the Cúcuta diocese “resolutely rejects all acts of violence” and that the attack causes “terror, pain, uncertainty and mistrust in the Colombian people.”

“We convey our deepest and sincere feelings of solidarity and closeness to the families and victims of the attack, and we have already entrusted their care and speedy recovery to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the patriarch Saint Joseph,” he added.

Bishop Garcés made “an urgent call to the perpetrators of these events” to not get carried away by the whirlwind of violence that “is stirred up with hatred and revenge, and rather with the participation of all, we may find a way out through dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

May Cúcuta “continue to be the place where fraternity and charity, love and respect for life are our greatest bastions in the achievement of peace. and the progress of the communities present in this border region,” he prayed.

The bishop also invited all people of good will “to pray ever more earnestly and with perseverance,” asking God to keep Colombia “in the heart of his Son, a place where you learn to love and forgive.”

Car bombings were once not uncommon in the Colombian conflict, which has been ongoing among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerrillas since 1964.

The conflict has abated since a 2016 peace deal between the government and the largest guerrilla group, the FARC.

In January 2019 a car bomb attack at a police academy in Bogota killed 21. A vehicle carrying 175 pounds of pentolite, a military-grade explosive, accelerated into the General Santander police academy after being stopped at a checkpoint. The pentolite detonated when the SUV struck a wall. The academy was holding a promotion ceremony for cadets.

The Colombian president has not taken up peace talks with the ELN.