A Mexican pastor has been shot dead in broad daylight in Juarez, Mexico – a city once known as the murder capital of the world.
Eduardo ‘Lalo’ Garcia was shot at least six times on 8 June, as he was chased by unidentified assailants believed to be members of the drugs trade. He had attempted to flee his pursuers in his car, but was chased and shot, his car eventually swerving into a bus stop, and then another car, before coming to a stop.
Pastor Garcia’s death is not the first death to blight the family. During a particularly gruesome period of violence in 2009, Pastor Garcia’s 24-year-old son, Abraham was murdered.
Eighteen months after his son’s death, Pastor Garcia’s daughter, Griselda, was kidnapped and he was forced to pay a ransom to secure her release.
“The pain we feel is really strong. We wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” Pastor Garcia, said last year during an interview. “We had decided to try to rescue the city, but I never imagined we would become a part of the statistics.”
CHRISTIANS AT GREATER RISK
Jorge Rodriguez, the Director of Religious Affairs for Juarez’s city government said that the trials of the Garcia family shone a spotlight on crimes that usually go under the radar, “In many cases, the abuses are not even reported, but we have specific cases of pastors being kidnapped and children of pastors being kidnapped, such as in the case of Pastor Eduardo Garcia and his family.”
A recent report, Latin America: organized corruption and crime – implications for Christians, by Open Doors states that Christians are treated as "second-class citizens" particularly when trying to bring criminal charges against their attackers. Corrupt authorities often ignore complaints or make them look ridiculous so no action will be taken.
Christians stand against guns, drugs and organised crime so they are seen as a threat and are vulnerable to attacks.
Dennis Petri, from Open Doors said, “Whenever a Christian starts to engage in social work – for example setting up a drug rehabilitation clinic or organising youth work – that is a direct threat to the activities and interests of organised crime because it takes the youth away from them.”
One church leader was killed for setting up a drug rehabilitation clinic and refusing to close it despite threats. A young boy was killed for joining a football team set up by a Church leader for vulnerable boys, some of whom were working as informants for cartels.
In Mexico Christians are seen as easy targets and there is a perception that churches and their leaders have a lot of money, as they regularly donate to the church’s offering. Cartels often enter a church service, lock the doors and ask the congregation to empty their pockets.
Others groups demand protection money from church leaders in exchange for the right to continue carrying out religious activities in a specific place. If the Christians refuse, they or their relatives may be victims of extortion or physical violence.
“It is a very common practice of such criminal organizations to charge churches or businesses for the right to remain open or to be allowed to organize a public meeting – similar to a public license – to collect a percentage of the proceeds of a business just like an income tax, or to charge for protection.” said Dennis Petri.
Mexico is number 39 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the most dangerous countries for Christians. Mexico plays Brazil in the World Cup on Monday 2 July. Why not pray for Christians in danger there as the play.