Peru Missionary Relives Plane Tragedy

  Peru Missionary Relives Plane Tragedy

Posted by CN Staff on July 05, 2002 at 09:35:33 PT
By Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press Writer  
Source: Sun Sentinel  

When he got off the plane that brought him to North Carolina, Jim Bowers wondered aloud to his mother if he could ever get the images out of his mind. The smoke from the guns of a Peruvian Air Force A-37 that shot through the small aircraft carrying his missionary family. The screams in Spanish of the Cessna's pilot: "They're killing us! They're killing us!" The blood on his infant daughter. His wife slumped over in her seat. More than a year has passed since a single bullet took the lives of Bowers' wife, Roni, and his daughter, Charity, in the sky over the Amazon River. 
A Baptist, Bowers credits his faith with sustaining him and his 7-year-old son, Cory. He says he's forgiven the U.S. and Peruvian officials who mistook his family's plane for a drug smuggler's. The two governments have acknowledged errors were made, and President Bush has called him to express regret. But Bowers still longs for an apology from the CIA, who officials said hired the surveillance crew that first told the Peruvians about the flight -- then never explicitly stopped them from shooting. "From the very beginning I wasn't expecting anything except for someone to admit they did something wrong and to be punished for it," Bowers said recently from his mother's home in this Raleigh suburb. "Then I realized as the months went by that there wasn't going to be anybody punished. "It doesn't matter how much you forgive a person. When they do something wrong, they should still suffer the consequences." After the Peruvian plane shot at the missionaries, a U.S. program to force down or shoot down airplanes suspected of carrying drugs in Latin America was halted. On Thursday, a senior Bush administration official said the program is expected to resume. The timing of President Bush's decision to restart the program remains uncertain, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bowers, 39, has made dozens of speeches about his experience at Bible colleges and churches in the Americas and Europe. A book, "If God Should Choose," and a dramatic video about the family are now serving to meet the Bowers' calling: evangelism and encouraging others to become missionaries. "God has chosen Cory and me to represent him in a bigger way, a lot bigger than I would have imagined," he said at a memorial service for Roni and Charity last year. Jim and Roni Bowers worked in relative anonymity for five years along the Amazon in northeastern Peru, spreading the Christian gospel among the riverside villages and training ministers through the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. The Bowers lived with their children aboard a houseboat that sailed up and down the river. On April 20, 2001, the family, flown by fellow-missionary Kevin Donaldson, was returning from the Colombian border where they had picked up a permanent resident visa for Charity. CIA personnel aboard a surveillance plane spotted the aircraft and alerted Peruvian officials. A Peruvian interceptor arrived and shot the aircraft as the CIA crew debated whether the plane fit a drug smuggler's profile. Roni Bowers and Charity, who had been adopted in Michigan only a few months earlier, were dead. Cory and Jim Bowers weren't injured. Donaldson was shot in the legs, but still managed to land the pontoon plane on the river. They reached land and got help. In the months after the shooting, government reports blamed errors by the Peruvian military, procedural mistakes and the poor language skills of personnel from both countries for misidentifying the plane. "They had no reason to suspect us," Bowers said. Jim Bowers brought the bodies back to America and settled in Garner, a town of 20,000 south of Raleigh, where tobacco fields are giving way to suburban subdivisions. There, he and Cory moved in with his mother, Wilma. Bowers took a job at Bethel Baptist Church in nearby Cary, leading Spanish Bible studies and church services for the area's growing Hispanic population. He said he's not bitter, though he does have strong words for the people involved. "It was an accident," he said. "It was terrible negligence and stupidity but it wasn't malicious." Roni Bowers' parents have a more pointed assessment. "It was the United States and Peruvian governments that murdered our daughter," Roni's father, John Luttig, said in an interview from Pace, Fla. An $8 million settlement from the U.S. government was reached this spring with the crash survivors, Roni Bowers' parents and the Bowers' missionary agency. The government didn't admit liability or assign blame to the CIA as part of the settlement. When asked whether the CIA would apologize to the family, an agency spokesman referred to the White House statement released in March that said: "The United States government and the government of Peru deeply regret this tragic event and the resulting deaths." All of the beneficiaries say they will give the money to support Christian ministries. Peru also has agreed to replace the missionary agency's plane. With few answers about why this all happened, he leans on the positives that have come out of the tragedy, including the growth of his own faith. "I got Roni stripped away from me. Basically, my main thing in life was my relationship with her," he said. Now, "God has seemed to be much more real and close to me." On the Net: Jim and Cory Bowers:  Association of Baptists for World Evangelism: Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL)Author: Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press Writer Published: July 5, 2002Copyright: 2002 Sun-Sentinel Co & South Florida Interactive, Inc.Contact: letters sun-sentinel.comWebsite: Related Articles: Peru Stops Coca Eradication Set to Resume Halting Latin Drug Planes Ready To Shoot Down Drug Planes 

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Comment #12 posted by john wayne on July 06, 2002 at 11:57:49 PT
decrease in "jesus talk"
and "burn in hell" postings on this board since Asscrack took power. 
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Comment #11 posted by Jose Melendez on July 06, 2002 at 10:31:41 PT
great quote!
(It) seems to me that the more Christian a country is, the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral. Abolition has taken its firmest hold in post-Christian Europe and has least support in the church-going United States. I attribute that to the fact that for the believing Christian, death is no big deal.”-Supreme Court Justice Antonin ScaliaRead more, he displays extreme bias, for someone sworn to uphold the law, or (God forbid) be just: extract from Scalia pro - death penalty speech, January 25, 2002
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Comment #10 posted by Sam Adams on July 06, 2002 at 07:51:20 PT
Scalia: what a wild and crazy guy!
No kidding, that is shocking about Scalia. The Supremes are some twisted people.Who was it that brought us the joy of Scalia? Reagan, I assume? Talk about "the gift that keeps on giving".....
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Comment #9 posted by Robbie on July 05, 2002 at 22:11:24 PT
Lehder... (re: post #3)
That's just un-*& !*#$-believeable.With that kind of logic running through his head, he could say that the selection of Shrub was "ordained by God" and that "God had always intended things to go a certain way." So, essentially, god is "the big excuse" for anything he may ever do.Can we impeach Supreme Court judges?Carl Sagan also said "We are all starstuff". I don't know how people could be more interconnected than that.
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Comment #8 posted by lehder on July 05, 2002 at 20:18:04 PT
thank you sam and carl
i think that's been my religion all along.
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Comment #7 posted by Sam Adams on July 05, 2002 at 20:14:02 PT
Religion and modern Man
Time to hear from our friend and cannabis brethren, Carl Sagan (actually speaking on the subject of modern astronomy and cosmology):"In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said - grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way." A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge."
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Comment #6 posted by freedom fighter on July 05, 2002 at 16:13:01 PT
Does'nt hurt to get in touch
and let them know..Speak out.. You may never know..ff
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Comment #5 posted by p4me on July 05, 2002 at 15:22:16 PT
The drug war in Ireland
The Scotsman reports about the fight for turf by the gangs in Ireland. Ireland is very important because it is not a signatory to the 1961 Single Convention that keeps other countries from outright legalizing marijuana: is off topic but there is another story at the Scotsman titled "Return from a war that never was." and is about the return of the 1380 Scottish troops that returned from Afganistan: Paragraphs 1 and 3 follow: THEY flew out to Afghanistan expecting to fight a war against al-Qaeda and the Taleban. They were told that many of their number might die.Operation Jacana cost an estimated £65 million - £47,101 for each of the 1,380 combat troops deployed, £1,444 for every one of the 45,000 rounds of ammunition captured and £2,321,428 per cave and bunker blown up.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on July 05, 2002 at 14:45:26 PT

Thanks Lehder 
I have no idea what religion I am anymore. Raised catholic, then Church of God. I even got involved with JWs for a short time. Church and religion have been a big part of my life. I don't believe my way is right for anyone but me. Just me. I don't believe that others ways are wrong. I believe it isn't my job to look at others and tell them how to live their lives. Just living everyone learns lessons. Making laws based on religion are wrong. Look at history and see the mistakes. Christian or other religions have made big mistakes so how can we base laws on a structure that doesn't have a good track record?
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Comment #3 posted by Lehder on July 05, 2002 at 14:27:25 PT

I get it, FoM
Why don't they get it? They're Bible people. They're intellectually extremely lazy and cannot possibly comprehend that poor social policies can give rise to social problems. They see all problems as arising from the evil within evil people. They seek a biblical solution to every problem, namely they seek to kill whomever they've identified as the source of evil.If you point out that there are social forces of cause and effect then you are challenging them to obtain a little information and think about it. But that's a lot of trouble for them. It's far easier to declare you to be evil, and so you are perceived as attacking their Jesus and their God and have in fact identified yourself as evil - someone for them to kill just as their "God" of the Bible kills those whom "He" perceives as "His" enemies. Their whole Goddamn religion is, or at the very least has been twisted into, just an elaborate excuse for being stupid, dangerous and bigoted. It's an easy way of life for them when they've got all thecops and guns in their hands.Here's an example from our Supreme Court:
Scalia cited the New Testament to claim that government “derives its
          moral authority from God ... to execute wrath, including even wrath by the
          sword, which is unmistakably a reference to the death penalty.” He then
          made the following remarkable declaration:          “Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is, the less likely
          it is to regard the death penalty as immoral. Abolition has taken its firmest
          hold in post-Christian Europe and has least support in the church-going
          United States. I attribute that to the fact that for the believing Christian,
          death is no big deal.”          Scalia went on to attribute any Christian opposition to the death
          penalty—including that of the Pope—to the “handiwork of Napoleon,
          Hegel and Freud.”          “The post-Freudian secularist,” he remarked, “is most inclined to think that
          people are what their history and circumstances have made them, and
          there is little sense in assigning blame.” With these words the high court
          judge indicated his own view that crime is not to be explained as a
          phenomenon with social roots, but rather as the expression of the evil
          character of individuals. anyone have any more doubts, then just attend one of Ashcroft's daily prayer meetings in the Dept of Justice/FBI Building.These people have a right to their goddamn religion; they have no right to impose it on the country or to make it an old testament styled basis for national social policy. They must be deposed before they bring us another Dark Age of violence, ignorance and poverty.

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Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 05, 2002 at 12:01:04 PT

Sick and Tired
I'm so tired of this useless drug war. People die for no reason and it makes me very angry. Why don't they get it? How much does this point need to be made for them to wake up? It is scary to think that there is no common sense in Washington or almost none. That's cutting them some slack but not much.
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on July 05, 2002 at 11:42:43 PT:

And this is why it won't end...
until some Congresscritter or Sin-a-tor gets winged.Mr. Bowers folds his hands and pontificates that's it's all for the best. The DrugWarriors have had the brass balls to say that the murders of tiny infants and their mothers is just ducky with them. And the shootdown flights will continue... (Think I am exaggerating about administration attitudes? Take a look:Remember The Drug War? Shootdown Policy Pause your memories...and don't hire any small planes for trans-Amazonian jaunts. Or you might wind up the same way...and the bullet that kills you will come from your (illegally) deducted payroll taxes. 
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