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.
(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.
An estimated 150 churches closed since July.
December 18, 2013 (Morning Star News) – Christians in southern Colombia are living in constant danger from a guerrilla army that has banned worship services in rural areas under its control.
An estimated 150 churches have been forced to close since July, when the 32nd Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP in Spanish) launched a repressive campaign against Roman Catholic and evangelical churches in the department (state) of Putumayo.
The FARC-EP has prohibited celebration of the Mass and Protestant worship in most small town and villages. Only congregations that have express permission from the rebel group are allowed to hold services without fear of retaliation.
Christians at greatest risk are the members of house churches and the itinerant evangelists who serve them.
“Every time my husband or another church leader leaves to go preach in the countryside, I can only ask, ‘Lord, continue to watch out for the safety of every one of them,” Jeanet Ortiz Pinto, wife of itinerant evangelist and radio speaker Angel Pinto, told Morning Star News. “My heart is saddened to see what is happening around us.”
The Pintos have pastored the Church of God in Puerto Asis, Putumayo since 1988. Angel Pinto also serves as itinerant pastor of several newly planted churches in the region.
During his 25-year ministry, Pinto has been captured five times by armed groups. Twice they told him he would be executed for violating FARC-imposed bans against preaching.
In both cases, local commanders released the pastor once they realized who he was – his congregation operates a well-known rescue ministry for war orphans.
“Some of those orphans belong to us; their parents were our comrades in arms,” they told Pinto the last time they spared him. “If we kill you, they will have nobody else to care for them.”
The FARC is known to have assassinated hundreds of evangelical church leaders over the years, including some of Pinto’s ministerial colleagues in Puerto Asis.
Guerrilla threats have driven six priests from their parishes in the Diocese of Mocoa, according to press reports.
“In the manual of coexistence issued by area FARC units, they have ordered us to close our churches, prohibited us from visiting outlying communities, or to preach – in effect, we must cease religious celebrations altogether,” Monsignor Luis Alberto Parra, bishop of Mocoa, told El Colombiano.
In the 50 years since the FARC launched its guerrilla war, 220,000 persons have lost their lives, according to a study by Colombia’s National Center for Historical Memory. Hundreds of thousands of families have been displaced by the violence, creating one of the world’s largest populations of internal refugees.
Ironically, the current aggression against Christians is happening while the Colombian government is engaged in negotiations with the FARC in Havana, Cuba, with a view to developing a comprehensive peace plan. The Colombian government tapped politicians, journalists, businessmen, and retired police and military officers to form the negotiating team, but no religious leaders.
Eneida Herrera, an evangelical and professor of Public Finance at the Autonomous University of the Americas, lamented that the church has suffered violence from armed groups yet was excluded from talks in Havana.
“Should the Havana negotiations fail to produce anything positive, we can expect an even greater wave of violence than what has occurred to date,” Herrera told Morning Star News. “The church and the local communities are the ones who will have to live with the results, whether good or bad.”
Pedro Mercado, adjunct secretary of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church, reportedly said he was “very worried.”
“We assumed that, in the face of the peace process, pressure from the FARC was going to diminish,” he told reporters. “But on the contrary, it has grown harsher. We are watching with worry the security threats to our priests and bishops, which restrict our freedom to preach the word of God.”
On Friday (Dec. 13), the 48th Front of the FARC-EP tried to take by force the village of Caicedo, about 30 minutes from Puerto Asis. In order to stall response from police and military units, guerrillas blew up an oil tanker on the road as Angel Pinto was passing through on his motorcycle. He and other travelers were unhurt but were stranded at the site for several hours until authorities could restore order and remove the burning tanker.
By Latin America Correspondent for Morning Star News
Photo: Newly baptized believers in the Putumayo River. (Morning Star News, David Miller)