Score:62/ 100Region:Latin AmericaPersecution Type:Organized crime and corruptionPersecution Level:Very HighPopulation:49,850,000Christians:47,237,000Main Religion:ChristianityGovernment:Presidential republicLeader:President Ivan Duque Marquez
Profile of Persecution
Violence 90%Church Life 53%National Life 59%Community Life 72%Family Life 47%Private Life 53%
Targeted for faithful resistance
Church leaders are harassed, extorted and even murdered by guerrillas or other criminal groups. 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 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.
How Christians are suffering
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. This ruling has affected one Christian YouTuber and a pastor.
According to Open Doors sources, in March 2019 an indigenous community in northern Colombia arrested a young woman because of her Christian beliefs. The leaders aimed to force her to marry an indigenous man in order to prevent the spread of the Christian faith inside the indigenous community.
A priest of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Osos of the rural town of Cuturú was threatened with death in December 2018 for refusing to pay protection money to one of the armed groups in the area. The priest had to be transferred for security reasons.
Population and number of Christian statistics: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed April 2019).
Pray for Colombia
Pray for Christian communities in areas with a high guerrilla presence, such as Catatumbo, Arauca, Cauca and Guaviare, as there have been more incidents of religious persecution in the past 10 years. 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.
Colombia Photo Gallery
Stories from Colombia March 6, 2020 A ‘living death’: How Christian women experience persecution A new 2020 Open Doors in-depth report focusing on gendered persecution surfaces some disturbing realities for Christian women and girls in the top 50 countries where women are highly persecuted for their decision to follow Jesus. Read More + READ MORE January 15, 2020 Every day, 8 Christians killed for their decision to follow Jesus In-depth research for Open Doors' 2020 World Watch List shows that at least eight Christians, largely in Sub-Saharan Africa, die at the hands of persecutors (extremists, family members and state authorities) each day. Read More + READ MORE August 15, 2019 Pastor in Colombia assassinated—fourth church leader killed in 11 months We have reports that another… Read More