What does persecution look like in Colombia?
Christians in rural Colombia are targets for criminal groups and face persecution from their own indigenous communities.
Armed guerrilla groups and gangs still control and fight over large parts of the national territory. Persecution from these groups intensified throughout the year, influenced by their political interest during the presidential elections. They see the church as a threat to their power and stability, particularly when gang members become Christians or church leaders speak out against violence and corruption. This leads to church leaders being threatened, harassed and even murdered, not to mention the mobility restrictions imposed by illegal means. Gang leaders target Christian families’ children, trying to recruit or abduct them to undermine the church and force them to displace. If recruited, young Christians are forced to take part in surveillance, extortion, trafficking, abuse and killings, or face life-long death threats from the gangs. Girls are at risk of a life of sexual abuse.
In many indigenous communities, there is strong opposition to sharing the gospel. Indigenous Colombians who leave their traditional beliefs to become Christians can face violence or imprisonment, be denied their basic rights, and can be driven out of their ancestral lands and left displaced.
Social intolerance promoted by ideological pressure groups against Christian expressions in the public space is increasing in the country. This is promoting an environment of self-censorship when Christians share their faith-based views on issues regarding the defence of life, family, marriage, and religious liberty.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
- Christians living in areas controlled by armed criminal groups, especially church leaders (at risk of violence) and young Christians (at risk of recruitment and mistreatment by the groups)
- Those who become Christians from indigenous or Afro-Colombian backgrounds
- Christians in urban areas where radical secular views are on the rise.
“We couldn't clap our hands, we couldn't sing praises, nothing. We preached in a low voice so they wouldn't notice.”Miguel
What has changed this year?
Colombia has risen eight places on the World Watch List, largely because of the increase in violence, including murders. Pressure has also increased, due to criminal gangs targeting Christians. In Colombian society in general, intolerance of religion has increased.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Colombia?
Open Doors strengthens the persecuted church in Colombia through Bible distribution, training, trauma care, community development projects, emergency relief aid, and education and safe houses for children.
How can you pray for Colombia?
- Pray for God's strength and power for pastors facing constant harassment by criminal groups.
- Pray for Open Doors partners as they work to equip the church and protect young people.
- Pray that new believers from criminal or indigenous backgrounds would inspire others with their courageous faith.
Dear Father, we pray for Your peace and justice to reign in Colombia, instead of violence and crime. Thank You for the bravery of Your followers, who speak out against the violence of the criminal gangs all around them. Thank You also for those who remain faithful to You despite the rejection of their own communities. We pray for strength, courage and joy for each of them. Amen.