Ingrid Betancourt

I love Ingrid’s story….her faith and determination!

During her almost seven years in captivity in the south of the Colombian jungle, Betancourt, who admits that she had a weak faith before her imprisonment, had two main activities: read the Bible and listen to the radio.

On June 1, a month before her release, she was listening to the Worldwide Catholic Radio and heard the promises made to those who would consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart.

Although Betancourt could not recall them all, she mentioned some of the promises to journalists: that the Sacred Heart will touch the hard hearts of those who make one suffer, that he will bless the person’s plans, and that he will help the person carry the cross and await him or her at the time of death.

Strength to endure

When Betancourt heard those words she said to herself, “This is for me. I need God to touch the hard hearts of the guerrillas, to touch the hard hearts of all those who do not allow our freedom to take place.

“I need him to bless and make his own my undertaking to obtain the freedom of all of us, and that he allows this to happen. I need him also to accompany me in carrying this cross because alone I can no longer endure it.”

Betancourt then revealed what she promised to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “Jesus, over these years I have never asked you for anything, but today I am going to ask you for something.

“As this is the month of the Sacred Heart, your month, I am going to ask you for a miracle for me, not for my release because I don’t think it’s possible, but let me know miraculously when I will be released because, if I know when, even if it is not for many years, so I will have the strength to endure.

“If you do this miracle for me, Lord, I will be yours.”

On June 27, a FARC commander said to Ingrid: “There is an international commission that visits prisoners; it is very probable that some of you will be released.”

Betancourt said Benedict XVI told her in the audience that Christ “brought about the miracle of your release because you were able to ask him. You didn’t ask him for your release, but asked that his will be done and that he help you to understand his will.”

The former prisoner told the Holy Father that she doesn’t know what it means to be Christ’s. The Pope replied: “He will show you the way.”

A call to believe

At the press conference Betancourt made a plea: “There are many people who are angry with God and don’t want to believe, and many people who are ashamed to believe in God.

The only thing I can tell you is that there is someone who hears us and speaks to us with words, and that if we understand how to speak to him, he will help us.”

After the audience, Betancourt said that Benedict XVI always prays for hostages. “The Pope bears the pain of those who suffer in his soul,” he is a “man of light.”

She also sent a message of encouragement to those who were her companions in captivity and who have yet to be released: “I know that this voice is going to reach the Colombian jungle. I know that I will soon embrace you in freedom.”

Betancourt also appealed to the guerrillas, who at present have some 3,000 hostages in their power. “You had me captive for seven years. I know you profoundly. I know your organization, your way of thinking and your objectives.

“Today I want to tell you that the world is waiting for you. The world wants you to make room in your minds so that you will achieve peace in Colombia. […] The answer is in your hearts, not in military and political calculations.”

(taken from Zenit the Vatican’s site)


#1 joseph on 09.12.08 at 9:43 am

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi spoke on the most recent edition of Vatican Television’s “Octavia Dies” about the French-Colombian woman who was freed in July after nearly seven years as a hostage in the Colombian jungle.
He praised her testimony of Christian reconciliation.
“Her testimony, full of explicitly spiritual and Christian references, runs the risk perhaps of not being taken too seriously by a secular mentality, but after such long captivity, the perspective of what is truly important in life changes,” Father Lombardi said. “This isn’t attested to only by Ingrid but also by the other hostages.
“Ideologies dim and what comes to the fore is what is in the depth of the heart: what one believes in, which allows for relations with others to be based on respect, fraternity and peace.”
“Without faith there is no hope and without hope there is no strength to continue to struggle for a reconciled world,” the Vatican spokesman said, quoting Betancourt.
The Jesuit said he hopes that Betancourt will be able to continue to proclaim her message of peace. He said that “would be the most precious contribution that this frail woman can make, re-emerging miraculously from the jungle to our world, sick with hatred.”
Betancourt was awarded on Wednesday with the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, one of Spain’s most prestigious awards.
According to the award foundation, Betancourt “has become a worldwide symbol of freedom and human resistance in the face of severe hardship. Her struggle in favor of democracy has been an encouraging example of dignity and valor for the whole world.”

#2 joseph on 09.15.08 at 9:43 am

Can We Talk? Ingrid Betancourt’s Amazing Eloquence

When authenticity and character are more important than technique.

By Florence Ferreira

Any Toastmaster who watched Ingrid Betancourt address the media and public in the immediate days following her spectacular rescue from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia learned an invaluable lesson on the relation between extemporaneous speech and authenticity.

When I heard of how this woman – along with 14 other hostages – had been liberated by Colombian commandos on July 2nd, I immediately went online to catch the event on video. All I knew about Ingrid Betancourt was that she was a French-Colombian politician who had been abducted by rebel forces in 2002 and held captive in the jungle ever since.

As I watched the landing of her plane at a military airport in Bogota, I expected to witness the emergence of a human wreck, with the ensuing immediate evacuation to a medical facility. Instead, Mrs. Betancourt came out looking bubbly and surprisingly composed, even carrying her own backpack.

Like the other millions of viewers around the world who heard her first few words (in Spanish or its translated form), I was spellbound; and for five consecutive days, I listened to every one of her multiple deliveries, interviews and press conferences. My interest, which was initially prompted by curiosity and compassion toward her unimaginable saga, quickly shifted to fascination with her eloquence and “onstage presence” under the circumstances.

The Toastmaster in me replaced the news “voyeur,” and I found myself instinctively wrapped up in the role of evaluator – a very humbled one.

“They got us out grandly,” she exclaimed, as she described her brilliantly masterminded deliverance just a few hours earlier as “an extraordinary symphony,” “a miracle with no historical precedent,” an “operation [that] was absolutely impeccable,” and “a moment of pride for Colombians” – all figures of speech that would have kept a grammarian busy at a Toastmasters meeting. And she merrily swung back and forth between Spanish and French in the next few days, with the same oratorical dexterity.

Woven into the obvious articulacy were also some lengthy pauses and hesitations, some emotional looms, some awkward gestures – in other words, transgressions to the usual rules of proper public speaking. Yet these were the most powerful moments. For all of her poise and facile use of language, it was the times she grasped for control or expression that moved us the most. These were the instances that told the real story – the nearly seven years of deprivation and brutality she and the other hostages endured, chained by the neck day and night, sleeping on mud, often under torrential downpours, forced to march without boots for days, infected by jungle parasites, undernourished, arbitrarily humiliated and abused, and with no opportunity to either read or converse.

Mrs. Betancourt, who is already called by some “the Colombian Nelson Mandela,” not once expressed hate and bitterness against her oppressors. Her captivity seemed to create in her a greater sense of grace and generosity of spirit. She went right to our hearts and souls with statements such as “I am free of envy, vengeance and bitterness… The people who stayed behind there, I forgive them…The first thing we have to do is change hearts. We have to change the vocabulary of hate. When I dreamed of being free, I told myself that I could not engage in hate or rancor… The guerrillas are our enemy, but we shouldn’t insult them. We should show them how to seek a dignified exit through peaceful negotiations. If we don’t defeat them correctly, we will sow the seeds of hate for the future.’’

Being a polished, technically-versed speaker is important, but nothing is more powerful than authenticity and character. When you speak with your heart, even if you lack practice and bend a rule, you will impact your listeners.

During her first address at the military airport in Bogota, Ingrid Betancourt said, “I’m sorry, but this has to be a hug,” and she moved away from the microphone to embrace the founder and host of “Voices of Kidnapping,’’ a radio program that broadcasts messages to hostages from their family members. She explained that the words read over the airwaves helped her fend off suicide. I wept, as did everyone else on site.

When authenticity and character are present, even leaving the lectern will be forgiven!

Florence Ferreira is an intercultural communication consultant, founder of SpeakGlobal and member of Boca Raton Toastmasters and the Florida Speakers Association. Reach her at

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