Thursday, 6/4/2020 – Colombia
Population: 49.9 million, Christians 47.2 million
Church leaders are harassed, extorted and even murdered by guerrillas or other criminal groups, such as ELN = National Liberation Army and FARC = Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia. This violence is often the direct result of Christians working for the defense of human rights or supporting a peace agreement that would restrict illegal activities of militant groups. The violence may also stem from Christians who work for environmental rights, working with youth or who denounce corruption and violence.
In addition to this, Colombia is the hub of drug trafficking. Think of drug lords, the Cocaine business its violence
In indigenous communities, there is a significant opposition toward Christian missionaries and indigenous converts, who, as a result, face imprisonment, physical abuse and the confiscation of property, among other forms of punishment. In addition, because of rising secularism, there is an increasing intolerance to Christian references and religious opinions in the public sphere—especially about issues concerning life, family, marriage and religious liberty—because they are considered discriminatory and “hate speech.”
Colombia rose six spots in the 2020 World Watch List from 2019. This is primarily due to increased pressure from criminal and ethnic groups and the increase in the number of Christians killed and church buildings attacked.
Church leaders are being threatened, harassed, extorted and even murdered as a result of the violence perpetrated by guerrillas or other criminal groups who are often protected due to corruption of the local authorities. Sometimes the violence is directed toward the church leaders’ families and entire communities to discourage anyone wanting to convert to Christianity. Christians are also ridiculed when they attempt to participate in public debate especially concerning gender, marriage and abortion. Political parties and ordinary citizens reject faith-based opinions and try to enforce agendas that contradict Christian values. Indigenous people who convert to Christianity and missionaries risk imprisonment, torture and the confiscation of property.
In August 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that the scope of protection for the respect of Christian public personalities is not guaranteed in the same way as for those exercising the right to freedom of expression to criticize them. According to the ruling, freedom of expression must be protected even if the expressions aired diminish the reputation of Christians, just because they are publicly known.
13% OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS HAVE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS. Attacks on religious leaders across the country are widespread. A recent study by the Bogotá mayor’s office found that over the past three years 12.6% of religious leaders in Bogotá have received death threats, 4.1% have faced extortion and 3.9% have been threatened with kidnapping. The that is just Bogota, the rest of the country?
The pastor of Nueva Filadelfia Church was assassinated on September 16 outside his home in Antioquia, forcing his wife and five adult children to flee the village in fear. The families of religious leaders have also been targeted.
This year alone, Christians in Buenaventura, a Colombia port city, have seen eight violent attacks against Christians, two churches shattered, one murder and multiple cases of threats, extortion and abuse.
- Pray to the Lord for a government that will bring peace and stability to the nation.
- Pray against the corruption in government agencies that fail to protect their citizens from spiritual and physical harm.
- Pray for protection of Christian communities in areas with a high guerrilla presence, such as Catatumbo, Arauca, Cauca and Guaviare, as there are increasing incidents of religious persecution.
- Pray that the church will remain strong in the midst of violent scenarios, that the preaching of the Word will not cease, and that the violent will be led to repentance. According to the Open Doors Colombia research department, more than half of the believers in rural areas of conflict zones are threatened with death, extortion, bans on evangelism and constant surveillance.
- May God strengthen all those who follow the gospel, even in the most hostile circumstances.
- Pray for discernment and wisdom for the leaders of tribal Christian churches who face persecution, torture, imprisonment and violence every day. Pray that Christian leaders will stands strong in faith.
- Pray against the guerilla groups who lure children into their ranks with promises of cash and weapons.
- Pray that NGOs supporting Christians will continue to provide all the needed support to embattled pastors and leaders.
- Pray believers are bold to share the gospel and that your hand of protection is over them.
- Pray that the Lord will protect and build His Church despite the hostile environment.
Again, we want to lift up persecuted witnesses for the Lord and pray for Leah Sharibu and pray that they will be set free. And also pray for pastor Wang Yi to be released from Prison and pray for Anita, a Christian convert recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for sharing the Gospel in Iran.
You are invited to join us on Thursday on a prayer call for the persecuted church.
Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderator
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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.
Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!
NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers. Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. Since the passing of Brother Blaine Scogin, we thank you for your patience as we have transitioned into this new season. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.
Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.
“To follow Christ is beautiful. It doesn’t matter if we have to live in suffering, persecution and contempt from our village. Everyone in the family says that to live close to God is a blessing, and we delight in the salvation found only in Jesus Christ.”
(Morning Star News) – Miguel Pérez Díaz, his eight children and 87-year-old father have been living in a mountainside shack since May, when local officials expelled them from their village in Chiapas state, Mexico.
Relatives, friends and neighbors in Tajlovijho, a village in the municipality of San Andrés Larráinzar in southern Mexico, had been harassing them for leaving indigenous religious practices for Christianity, sources said.
“The first action they took against them was to cut their potable water service,” pastor Mario Choj told Morning Star News. “Then they made them leave the humble home they owned.”
Leaving the “traditionalist” blend of Roman Catholic and indigenous rituals and beliefs, the Pérez family put their faith in Christ four years ago and began a small fellowship in their home, said Pastor Choj, who leads an Assemblies of God Church called Jesús Es el Camino.
The family loaded the few belongings their neighbors allowed them to take and headed up the mountains to a village called Mitontic, where they survive by collecting the morning dew from a nylon sheet and rain water that falls from the metal roof of the shanty they built, the pastor said. They store the water in empty soda bottles and other containers.
Despite taking refuge far from their home, they are obligated to pay Tajlovijho officials 500 pesos (US$26) each month to keep authorities from taking possession of their house and remaining belongings, sources said.
Pastor Choj said Pérez told him the family is ready to suffer for Christ.
“To follow Christ is beautiful,” Pérez said, according to the pastor. “It doesn’t matter if we have to live in suffering, persecution and contempt from our village. Everyone in the family says that to live close to God is a blessing, and we delight in the salvation found only in Jesus Christ.”
Their case is one of thousands in which indigenous Mexican families that have been driven from their homes and lost all their belongings “only because they have accepted that Jesus is the only hope that we Mexicans have to be free of sin and eternal punishment,” Pastor Choj said.
The “traditionalist” religious mix practiced by the area’s predominantly ethnic Tzotzil, who are of Mayan origin, includes drunken festivals honoring pagan idols that evangelical Christians eschew. In a misuse of Mexico’s “Uses and Customs” law designed to protect indigenous culture, local caciques (political “bosses”) cite local regulations requiring villagers to contribute fees toward and participate in the festivals.
Christian attorneys note that this misuse of Mexico’s “Uses and Customs” laws violates the guarantee of religious freedom in Article 24 of Mexico’s constitution.
Similar cases of persecution have happened in Oaxaca, Durango and other states outside of Chiapas. In July residents of Huejutla, Hidalgo state, cut water service to two Christian families for refusing to participate in “Catholic festivals of the community,” according to online outlet Animal Político.
Denying any religious motive, officials with the Ministry of Interior blamed the two evangelical families “because they did not fulfill their duties” to villagers and did not “participate in their ‘uses and customs,’” the news cite reported.
In Chiapas, Pérez and his family, including wife Guadalupe Hernández and father Miguel Pérez Núñez, came to faith in Christ after reading an evangelistic pamphlet printed and distributed by Cruzada Mexican, a ministry also known as Every Home for Christ-México, Pastor Choj said. Volunteers leave the pamphlets, New Testaments and other Christian literature, some of them translated into indigenous languages, at area Protestant churches.
“The Pérez family previously lived happy and faithful, but they did not know what trials were coming to their peaceful life,” Pastor Choj said. “But they pray that more Christians would spread the Word of God, as many still need to know the love that is available only from Jesus Christ. They also pray for all the families expelled from their own houses and lands.”
Mexico ranks 39th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians experience the most persecution.
(Morning Star News) – Authorities in Cuba on Sunday (July 14) refused to allow the national presidents of two Christian denominations to board their flight to Washington, D.C., to attend a religious freedom event, sources said.
The Rev. Moises de Prada Esquivel and the Rev. Alida Leon Baez, both members of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches of Cuba (AECC, Alianza de Iglesias Evangélicas Cubana) were slated to represent the organization as members of its executive board at the event.
They were notified at Havana’s José Marti International Airport that they would not be allowed to travel to the U.S. capital because Cuban State Security had blocked their departure from the country, according to an AECC press statement.
Cuban authorities reportedly denied other evangelical leaders permission to travel to the United States. Officials earlier refused to renew the passport of the Rev. Dariel Llanes, president of the Western Convention Baptist Church of Cuba (Iglesia Convención Bautista de Cuba Occidental), reportedly to keep him from attending the meeting in Washington. Immigration officials also reportedly blocked the Rev. Alain Toledano Valiente of the Prophetic Apostolic Movement (Movimiento Apostólico Profético) from leaving the country.
The incidents were the latest in a campaign of repression against the evangelical Christian community in Cuba.
On Friday (July 12), State Security agents forcibly detained independent journalist Ricardo Fernandez Izaguirre following his visit to the offices of human rights watchdog group Ladies in White in Havana.
The Camaguey-based reporter and advocate of religious freedom, who is married with an infant daughter, has since been held incommunicado by authorities, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Fernandez Izaguirre, an active member of a network of unregistered charismatic Christian churches, has reportedly been working with the predominantly Roman Catholic Ladies in White to document violations of freedom of religion and belief, a right enshrined in the Cuban constitution.
The jailed journalist’s friends and family have been unable to contact him since his arbitrary detention, and his mobile phone appears to have been disconnected, according to CSW.
Anna-Lee Stangl, head of advocacy for CSW, appealed to authorities for Fernandez Izaguirre’s release.
“CSW holds the Cuban government responsible for the well-being of Ricardo Fernandez Izaguirre,” Stangle said. “We call on the authorities to release him immediately.”
Evangelical leaders suspect mounting pressure on Christians – and on the AECC in particular – is rooted in their outspoken opposition to proposed constitutional changes aimed at legalizing homosexual marriage in Cuba. A new Cuban draft constitution approved in 2018 by the National Assembly of People’s Power replaced a clause defining the family as “a union between one man and one woman” with “a union between two persons…with absolutely equal responsibilities.”
Backlash from Cuba’s Christian community forced authorities to delete the new language, but constitutional framers specifically avoided re-inserting the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. That left the door open to approve homosexual marriage through the new Cuban Family Code, set to be ratified within two years.
Christians fear it also practically guarantees that the campaign of repression against outspoken Christians will continue.
“In Cuba, there is no real freedom of expression or of worship,” a veteran evangelical pastor who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. “Any person who openly opposes the established system is looking for problems.”
Were the government to listen to the voice of Protestant Christians on the issue and maintain the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, there would be a possibility for resolution, the pastor said.
“But given the fact that the daughter of Raul Castro, (LGBT activist Mariela Castro Espin) is the force behind the constitutional change, I think it very unlikely that the government will back down from its intentions,” he said.
The AECC, composed of Protestant churches choosing not to identify with the regime-friendly Cuban Council of Churches, counts 1 million members among its affiliate denominations, a number that represents nearly 10 percent of the country’s 11 million population.
(L’Observatoire de la Christianophobie) On Thursday, April 25, when protests organized by trade union centers in Bogota, Colombia, took place, a bunch of leftist fanatics attacked the cathedral and the episcopal palace of the capital, and tagged their walls in abundance. They also stoned the police deployed outside the entrance of the cathedral to prevent any intrusion. Thirty-five people were arrested by the police. The video below, in Spanish, shows images of the misdeeds committed.
Source: ACI Prensa , April 26, 2019.
VOP Note: Thank you to Daniel Hamiche for his concern and dedication to the Persecuted Church. Hamiche is a journalist and president of the Association Amitié catholique France / United States. In 2007, he launched the blog Americatho (now a member of the reinforcement portal Riposte Catholique). He is administrator and editor of the blog The Observatory of Christianophobia.
(Morning Star News) – A Christian in Chiapas state, Mexico was summarily jailed for three days the evening of Jan. 7 for refusing to deny his faith and contribute to Traditionalist Catholic festivals, according to an advocacy group.
Local authorities who practice the Traditionalist Catholic blend of indigenous pagan and Roman Catholic rituals also threatened Juan Gabriel Lopez Perez, 28, that he would not be released unless he sold his house and left the area within 20 days, the Coordination of Christian Organizations (COC) said in a statement. When Lopez Perez fell ill two days into his 72-hour sentence and was temporarily released to obtain medical care, his wife was obliged to serve the time in jail in his place, according to the organization.
Authorities in Rancheria El Encanto, Municipality of Las Margaritas, had given Lopez Perez the option of paying a 5,000-peso (US$240) fine or 72 hours in jail. After refusing to pay the fine, he was sent to jail at 7 p.m. for declining to sign a document denying his evangelical faith and agreeing to contribute to the Traditionalist Catholic festivals, which frequently involve drunkenness.
“On Jan. 9, the health condition of the prisoner were getting worse from the climatic conditions, so that in spite of requests for medical attention, it was not possible until night, when it was proposed that another person go to jail in his place, as a doctor had diagnosed the onset of bronchitis,” the COC statement read. “His wife, Eduvina Lopez Santiz, went into the jail at that time.” (more…)
(Agenzia Fides) – Diocesan priest José Luis Sánchez Ruiz, who had been kidnapped on Friday, November 11, was released yesterday with “obvious signs of torture”, according to a statement from the Diocese of San Andres Tuxtla (Veracruz, Mexico) signed by His Exc. Mgr. Fidencio Lopez Plaza.
In the statement, sent to Fides, the Bishop thanked the authorities for their interest and informs that the community awaits the conclusions of the prosecutor to clarify the facts. Mgr. Lopez Plaza also thanks for the “heartfelt sympathy and prayers of all the faithful, as well as the Mexican Episcopal Conference, and in particular the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Veracruz”.
According to the local press, Father Sánchez Ruiz, the parish priest of Los 12 Apóstoles Catemaco, in the days before the kidnapping had received threats, surely for his harsh criticism against corruption and crime in the town of Catemaco. Citizens had more than once expressed the lack of security and the arrogance of organized crime. Fides on several occasions reported that the Mexican states of Veracruz, Guerrero and Michoacán are the most violent regions even for priests. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 14/11/2016)
Poza Rica (Agenzia Fides) – In a statement the Mexican diocese of Papantla confirmed the violent death of two priests: Fr. Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Suárez de la Cruz. According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, a first report of the Office of the Attorney General of Veracruz state indicates that the two priests were kidnapped last Sunday evening, September 18, from the parish of Nuestra Senora de Fatima, in the extreme outskirts of the city of Poza Rica, in the northern part of the Veracruz state. Their lifeless bodies were found yesterday morning, Monday, September 19, at the side of the road that connects Papantla to Poza Rica. A collaborator of the priests, who worked as a sacristan and driver, was also kidnapped, and fortunately was found alive. The area was the scene of violent clashes between drug cartels for years, but it is still not clear why the two priests were killed.
“We are dismayed by this news and we pray for their eternal rest – writes Mgr. José Trinidad Zapata Ortiz, Bishop of Papantla, in the statement for the tragic death of the two priests -. Once more we see that violence and insecurity have taken root in our society”. The Bishop hopes that the loss of the two priests will help bring long-awaited peace and priestly vocations to continue the evangelizing mission of the Church. “We condemn all forms of violence and pray for the conversion of those who forget that we are brothers and cause suffering and death – writes Mgr. Zapata Ortiz -. The path of violence and crime generates even more violence. God does not want death, neither violence nor injustice. God wants life, God wants everyone to live in justice, dignity and peace”. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 20/09/2016)
Who has held the oceans in His hands? Who has numbered every grain of sand? Kings and nations tremble at His voice. All creation rises to rejoice
Behold our God seated on His throne
Come let us adore Him
Behold our King nothing can compare
Come let us adore Him!
Who has given counsel to the Lord? Who can question any of His Words? Who can teach the One who knows all things? Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?
Who has felt the nails upon His hands bearing all the guilt of sinful man?
God eternal humbled to the grave. Jesus, Savior risen now to reign! (Behold Our God, original lyrics)
STOP, be still. Turn off the all that distracts you. Shhh, be silent and listen. Can you hear that? The ONE who loves you is calling your name…Go to HIM!