A Special Report by ICC
10/2/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – As Christians are victimized by violent acts of persecution at the hands of armed rebels, in the politically charged climate of Colombia; the future does not look good for one of the most vulnerable groups in the country.
Christian Couple Assassinated After Being Forced to Resettle
On March 7th, a Colombian couple was gunned down by assassins in their home. Elizabeth Chaparro, 31, and her husband, Eliud Landero, 33, were members of the Pentecostal United Church of Colombia. Their names were allegedly on a hit list kept by an anti-Christian militia.
The Chapparo family was forced to flee the Arhuaco reservation, where they lived until 2006, because Guerrillas laid siege to the church on the reservation. Acting on order by indigenous authorities, they denied the congregation food and water for three days, until the Christians were compelled to leave. Such incidents are not uncommon in Colombia, where about 300 indigenous Christians were displaced from their homes in 2012.
Shortly after the family resettled in Valledupar, a city in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains, they began to receive threats from an armed group. On the night of the murder, assassins charged into the house and shot the couple while their two sons were in the house, although the children were not physically harmed.
Armed Gunmen Kill Christian Woman in Front of Her Children
On January 7th, armed gunmen entered the home of Alicia Castilla during an evening devotional and shot her in front of her three children and her father. She was killed for remaining in the region, despite being ordered to leave four months earlier, by the National Liberation Army (ELN). Two years earlier, the ELN had murdered her husband, Nelson Ramos, for his evangelistic fervor.
“The ELN believe that Christians are brainwashed with the Bible, and that they will never support their revolution. The militants are also suspicious that Christians are spies and informants for the government, and complain that they give funds to their churches and refuse to support rebel activities. They also notice that when Christians fast and pray, the guerrillas’ violent plans against them are oddly stopped,” according to an Open Doors worker.
Under the recent governance, there has been a resurgence of armed groups in Colombia, who specifically target Christians because they know the Christian faith is not compatible with their values, according to Open Doors UK.
Pastor and Daughter Shot During Church Service
In February 2011, Los Rastrojos, a neo-paramilitary group that operates across the country, opened fire on a pastor during a Sunday morning service, killing him, his nine-year-old daughter, 26-year-old sister-in-law and severely wounding his nine-year-old nephew. The pastor had defied an order by the group to shut down the church and stop all religious activities.
Children Targeted for Abductions to Intimidate Christians
Children of Christian parents are often abducted by civil war guerilla groups, in a heartless effort to intimidate Christians and compel them to cease their evangelistic efforts. Also, it is not uncommon for Christians to be killed in front of their children, leaving them at risk of great emotional damage.
The General State of Persecution in Colombia
Colombia is a modern democratic country where the rule of law is established and religious freedom is guaranteed. However, large areas of the country are under the control of criminal organizations, drug cartels, revolutionaries and paramilitary groups, who continue to operate with impunity.
In 2012, Colombia was ranked 47, on a list of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution. Around 20-30 church leaders in Columbia are murdered by armed rebels each year. Currently, an estimated 200 churches are believed to be forcibly closed across the country. In some regions, religious activity has been forbidden by order of the armed groups. Entire Christian communities have been displaced and church leaders have been marked for assassination. In many cases these threats have been carried out, according to a 2012 report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
What the Future Looks Like for the Church in Colombia
Colombia is under the curse of a long-standing civil conflict between the government, guerrilla rebels and paramilitary groups, each of whom have been criticized for numerous human rights violations. The danger to Christians in Colombia stems directly from the political instability, social unrest and unresolved civil conflict that has taken the lives of 220,000 people between 1958 and 2013.
Unless local and international governments are able to bring in an era of peace, justice and political stability in the country, it is expected that Colombian Christians will continue to be persecuted because of their evangelistic mission and their involvement in social and political activities. For the moment, Colombia’s Christians can only walk through the valley of the shadow of death, drawing hope from their faith in the One who walks through it with them.
For interviews, please contact Corey Bailey at RM-Asia@persecution.org
You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C. based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.