At 24 years old, Pastor Leider Molina was known for his passion and enthusiasm. He actively served his community and church in Caucasia, a village located roughly 167 miles north of Medellín – Colombia’s second-largest city and known drug trafficking hub.
Pastor Molina isn’t the first Christian leader targeted for violence. Two pastors were killed in September 2018. A three-year-old peace accord between Colombia’s government and FARC – the country’s largest armed group – offers little protection.
“There are some elements of the peace process that have worked,” notes Greg Musselman from Voice of the Martyrs Canada, “but when you consider that these FARC guerillas have been involved in this for many years… they’re refusing to go along with the peace process.
“They’re a communist group that are trying to bring equality to the people, but they’re using very violent and illegal means to do that.”
Targeted killing and the Christian community
This in-depth 2018 article by violence researchers Fabio Andres Diaz and Magda Jiménez highlights the trend of targeted killings in rural communities. While the article does not make specific reference to Christian leaders, they could be included under the umbrella terms of “social leaders” and “community organizers.”
As Open Doors USA notes in its latest Colombia dossier:
“Church leaders are often the only form of authority present in an area; by being the first to reject the presence of these criminal groups, they often become the first to be threatened by them.”
Armed groups view Christian leaders as obstacles, Musselman explains.
“Pastors are preaching to their young men and young women and saying, ‘Look, don’t join these groups. They’re dangerous. It goes against the teachings of the Bible’,” he says.
“These groups [are] trying to shut them up from talking to these young people.”
When a pastor is assassinated, Musselman continues, congregations tend to break apart or grow stronger – depending on what they’ve been taught. Pray the Lord will strengthen believers and help them stay unified in the face of persecution.
Voice of the Martyrs Canada advocates for persecuted Christians around the world and supports them through various initiatives. Learn more about their work in Colombia here.
Header image by Flavia Carpio via Unsplash.