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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #30

COLOMBIA

 

Country rank

30

Persecution score

67.22

Last year’s rank

41

Region

Latin America

Persecution Type

Clan oppression (Strong), Organized corruption and crime (Strong), Secular intolerance (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

50,220,000

Christians

47,706,000 (95.0%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Christianity

Government

Presidential Republic

Leader

President Ivan Duque

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Colombia through:
• Christian literature development and distribution
• Children centers
• Training
• Socio-economic development
• Trauma support
• Emergency relief

ABOUT COLOMBIA

What does persecution look like in Colombia?

In Colombia, a largely Christian country, persecution is localized—and violent. Church leaders are threatened, harassed, extorted and even murdered as a result of the violence perpetrated by guerrillas and other criminal groups, especially in the country’s more remote areas. In most cases, this violence is the direct result of Christians denouncing corruption and violence, working for the defense of human and environmental rights, serving among youth, and pursuing peace and justice—all endangering the illegal activities of the criminal groups. Christians are seen as impediments to the forced recruitment of people, especially youth, to rebel groups and to the drug trade and organized crime that pay for these groups.

In indigenous communities, significant opposition exists toward Christian missionaries and indigenous converts, who can face imprisonment, physical abuse and the confiscation of property, among other forms of punishment. 

In addition, there seems to be an increasing intolerance for Christians in the public sphere and an emphasis on secularism over and above a pluralistic society that values all voices, including Christians. Christians can be wrongly seen as bigots or discriminatory, and opposition to historical Christian beliefs has been violent at times.  

What has changed this year?

Colombia’s rank on the 2021 World Watch List rose by 11 spots over last year’s list. The most significant factors leading to the country’s steady rise up the list are the violence from rebel groups—including the return of a group within FARC to guerilla activities—along with the persecution faced by indigenous Christians who have departed a traditional religion. Additionally, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected groups who were already vulnerable to criminal gangs, particularly in areas of the country that are at least partially controlled by these violent groups.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Christians most at risk in Colombia are followers of Christ who live in regions where rebel groups and drug gangs—which in some contexts can be the same thing—exert control. Christians who live out the gospel threaten to disrupt the drug trade and the ability of the local criminals to maintain their authority. Therefore, these groups target church leaders, inflicting violence on them and their communities. 

The other exceptionally vulnerable group is indigenous people who convert to Christianity. Often, these Christians live in semi-autonomous regions where local authorities exert significant power. Because following Jesus is viewed as a betrayal of culture and heritage, this means Christians can be expelled from their homes or be targeted for significant and overwhelming persecution.  

How can I help Christians in Colombia?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Colombia?

Guerrilla groups in Colombia are known to recruit Christian Colombian children. For this reason, the Open Doors Children’s Center was established in Colombia as a place to protect children whose families have been threatened or displaced, and for those who are at risk of being recruited.

Open Doors also supports Christians in indigenous communities with training and with the setting up of Christian education for indigenous children.   

Open Doors strengthens the persecuted church in Colombia by developing and delivering Bible materials, constructing Christian schools for indigenous Christians, providing education programs and bringing emergency aid to persecuted followers of Jesus.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Colombia, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for Christians in indigenous communities in Colombia. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, indigenous communities are restricting access to their communities and, in some cases, blocking roads that lead to their native lands. These actions prevent missionaries from reaching out to Christians and even providing help.

-Pray for Christians living in areas controlled by rebel and criminal groups. Pray God would keep them safe and give them courage to continue to live out and preach His gospel. 

-Pray for the families of church leaders who have been killed in Colombia this year. Pray God will be their comfort and will bring them healing from trauma.

 

A PRAYER FOR COLOMBIA

Our God and Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Colombia. We pray for those who are facing the threat of violence simply because their very presence is a threat to those who would do evil. We pray You would bring about peace and reconciliation among armed groups in Colombia, and that violence would cease. We pray also for our indigenous family in Colombia, that they would be able to walk with You openly and without fear. In Jesus’ name, Amen.