How many Christians are there in Colombia?
Christians make up a large majority of Colombia – 47.2 million of the approximately 50 million people in the country. Despite this, Christians still face significant persecution in Colombia, and it’s getting worse.
Why are Christians persecuted in Colombia?
There are two main perpetrators of persecution against Christians: criminal groups and members of indigenous communities. Colombia is dominated by guerrilla groups that target Christians who denounce corruption and violence, defend human rights or try to deter young people from joining criminal gangs. In indigenous communities, Christians are often considered to be ‘betraying’ their heritage.
Meet Pastor Andrés
They told me that I am forbidden to pray for peace in our region; that if they knew of any prayer meetings going on, they will kill us all.” Pastor Andrés
What’s life like for Christians in Colombia?
Pastor Andrés has looked after his congregation in Buenaventura for 14 years, and in that time he’s seen many different waves of persecution. In 2017, he was kidnapped and beaten for hours because he wouldn’t accept money from illicit sources. In August 2019, the leaders of local armed groups told him he and his congregation would be killed if they continued to pray for peace.
This isn’t an idle threat – members of Pastor Andrés’s congregation have been murdered, including teenagers. In crime-ridden cities like Buenaventura, guerrilla gangs regularly threaten, harass, extort and even murder church leaders and other Christians.
In indigenous communities, there is significant opposition towards Christian missionaries and indigenous converts who, as a result, face imprisonment, physical abuse and the confiscation of property, among other forms of punishment.
This year has brought accusations that Christians are responsible for coronavirus. The traditional animist beliefs held by some indigenous communities means they believe that converts to Christianity are the source of all plagues and diseases. One of these groups is the Arahuaco Indians who inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia. Leaders of such groups believe that expelling Christian converts from their communities will help to put an end to the coronavirus. This has increased persecution, in some cases leading to Christians being imprisoned as way of expelling them from the community.
Not only that, but church leaders are putting their lives in danger to take aid to people in need, especially those who live in more rural areas. In places such as Tumaco on the Pacific Coast, and the Amazon and Catatumbo regions which border Venezuela, they are extremely at risk, not just from the virus, but of being targeted by illegal armed groups that control these regions.
How can I help Christians in Colombia?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Colombia. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors strengthens the persecuted church in Colombia through Bible training and distribution, trauma counselling, education programmes, and emergency relief aid.
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Colombia?
Colombia has risen eight places on the World Watch List, putting it among the countries that have seen persecution increase the most. This is largely due to increased pressure from criminal and ethnic groups, and the increase in the number of Christians killed and church buildings attacked after ineffective peace agreements.
Father God, thank You that so many Colombians know the truth of the gospel and have chosen to follow You. We pray that You would protect them from the endemic violence in the country, and change the hearts of those who run guerrilla and criminal groups.