In June of 2018, a Mexican pastor, whose name has been withheld for security purposes, was in his home in the border city of Juarez when an uninvited guest arrived. The intruder, a hitman, pointed a gun at the pastor and said, “You don’t know who you’re messing with…” As the pastor knelt on the floor of his home, he heard the hitman pull the trigger. Miraculously, the gun didn’t fire.
When the assailant saw that his gun wouldn’t work, he knocked the minister unconscious, stole his wallet, and fled from the home. Regarding the attack, the brave pastor said, “All I can say is that with the work we do as a church we have affected the activities of those groups involved in drug trafficking and also the organized crime. We are not sure what comes next.” Sadly, the event involving this pastor wasn’t an isolated one in a country fraught with the devastating effects of violent drug cartels.
This incident came mere days after Pastor Eduardo Garcia was maliciously murdered in the same city. Garcia was chased and shot by unidentified attackers thought to be members of the drug trade. His vehicle swerved into a bus stop, hit another car, and then stopped. Heartbreakingly, Garcia’s 24-year-old son Abraham was murdered by suspected drug ringleaders in 2009. Just last year during an interview with World Watch Monitor, the slain pastor said, “The pain we feel is really strong. We wouldn’t wish it on anyone… We had decided to try to rescue the city, but I never imagined we would become a part of the statistics.”
Recalling the horrific event, Garcia recounted, “The telephone rang and I heard my wife yell. I was on the second floor, but I heard her cry ‘No!’ very loudly. So I went downstairs quickly and asked, ‘What happened?’ And she just said, ‘They killed Abraham.’” Astoundingly, the persecuted pastor’s daughter, Griselda, was kidnapped 18 months after Abraham’s murder. Garcia was forced to pay a huge ransom to secure Griselda’s release.
The number of violent deaths in Mexico has skyrocketed in recent years. The National Institute of Statistics and Geography reported that more than 30,000 homicides took place in Mexico in 2017. This represented the highest number on record since the statistics were first collected in 1997. According to municipal authorities, 177 murders took place in Juarez in June of 2018. This equates to six killings a day.
Obviously, the gruesome violence taking place in Mexico affects everyone. However, Dennis Petri, Open Door’s Latin American Analyst, told World Watch Monitor that practicing Christians are especially vulnerable. He believes Christians’ behavior resulting from their convictions has more to do with this heightened risk than their identity. To explain his reasoning, Petri stated, “Whenever a Christian starts to engage in social work–for example, setting up a drug rehabilitation clinic or organizing youth work — that’s a direct threat to the activities and interests of organized crime because it takes the youth away from them. It’s a direct threat to their market.”
Open Door’s Latin American Analyst referenced a courageous church leader who was murdered for setting up a drug rehabilitation clinic. Despite receiving threats, the church leader refused to close the clinic down. Petri also mentioned a church leader who organized a football team for at-risk boys. Some of the boys were serving as informants for drug cartels. When one boy told the drug cartels he didn’t wish to be an informant any longer, he was murdered.
Besides the life-changing, beneficial work Christians in Mexico are performing, they’re also being targeted due to the perception that they have money. In the eyes of the drug cartels, congregations can provide a ready source of cash. Drug gangs can simply enter a place of worship, bar the doors, and demand that church attendees hand over their money. Chito Aguilar, a church leader who used to work in the drug trade, informed World Watch Monitor, “They say, ‘Well, if in a church there are 50 or 100 people bringing their offerings, that’s more and easier money than what they’ll get robbing a convenience store.’ Eight people walk into a church, and one or two will remain at the doors while the others start collecting watches, rings, wallets … everything.”
Pray for Christians in Mexico and elsewhere who are being mercilessly persecuted. Also, pray that God would deal with the hearts of those working in the drug cartels who so frequently resort to violence in order to carry out their illegal activities.
~ 1776 Christian