The Colombian Bishops’ Conference this week offered prayers and voiced “deep sorrow” over two new massacres in the country in recent days.

“We the Catholic bishops,” they said in a Sept. 21 statement, “with deep sorrow for the death of these brothers, pray for their eternal rest and express our solidarity with their loved ones, the municipal communities to which they belonged, the archdiocese of Popayán and the diocese of Tumaco. We also ask the Lord for the speedy recovery of the wounded.”

They called for “a definitive end to this machinery of death.”

Six young people were killed in a rural area of the municipality of Buenos Aires, and four people were killed in the municipalities of Mosquera and El Charco in attacks that also led to injuries and property damage.

More than 200 people in Colombia have been killed in some 60 mass killings this year. The killings are often methods of intimidation or retaliation, with criminal groups fighting over drug routes and illegal armed groups still active two years after the signing of a historic peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which had previously been engaged in a 50-year civil war.

In their Sept. 21 message, the bishops lamented “the extensive list of murders and attacks that in various settings have taken place in the country in recent months.”

“The attacks against human life and dignity are more and more atrocious and bring increasingly serious humanitarian consequences for the entire nation,” they said.

They reiterated that “human life is sacred and attacking it is an extremely serious crime against individuals and communities.”

Stressing that peace can only be achieved if life is respected, the bishops called for “a clear and courageous commitment to defending life” by all segments of society. They encouraged government authorities to enhance security measures and carry out investigations into the attacks.

“We ask Catholic communities to persevere in prayer for peace, as well as to continue promoting actions that lead to reconciliation and the defense of life as a primary and fundamental right of all people,” they added.