We have reports that another pastor in Colombia has been targeted and murdered—the fourth church leader killed in less than a year in the country.
A day before he would preach to his congregation on Sunday, 39-year-old Colombian Pastor Plinio Rafael Salcedo was killed in his home in the town of La Caucana on Saturday, August 10, while he was resting. Armed men stormed the pastor’s home, shooting him in front of his children and wife. He died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Like many church leaders in Colombia, Pastor Salcedo was also a highly recognized and appreciated leader in his community where he also led a well-known church. Open Doors worker Sebastian Villalba * described him as a “man passionate for the gospel who enjoyed preaching and learning about Christ and His Word.”
Fourth church leader targeted by illegal armed groups
Pastor Salcedo’s murder followed a protest by Protestants and Catholics for peace between illegal armed groups and guerillas. This area in northwestern Colombia has been going through a deep security crisis due to the power dispute between the two groups. Despite claims of peace by Colombia’s government, the area remains extremely volatile as these armed groups target church leaders with impunity.
Since September 2018, four church leaders in Colombia have been targeted and killed, including Pastor Hector Galarza in September 2018, 24-year-old Pastor Leider Molina, 24, in February and Pastor Tomas Francisco Estrada*. Pastors Molina and Estrada were killed in six days of each other.
The region has suffered record-high violence, due to the presence of armed groups that dispute the control of drug trafficking routes and the ownership of illicit crops. These groups see the Christian church as an enemy to be eradicated.
The preaching and courageous action of leaders and pastors in the country have dissuaded many young people from joining these criminal groups. Many youth have even renounced armed conflict and illegal operations. Today, it’s estimated that some 14,000 children are enlisted in criminal arms groups in Colombia.
And in places where the Christian church maintains a strong influence, residents are less inclined to be part of criminal operations. By preaching the Word of God, the Christian church establishes a direct opposition to the purposes of the armed groups. In response, these groups attack the church’s leaders.
One area pastor told Open Doors that “the proclamation of the gospel has never been easy, but in our region, it is a matter of life or death. However, we don’t stop.”
In response to this recent tragedy, Open Doors is sending a specialized care team to Pastor Salcedo’s family to provide both presence and support. As the Body of Christ, we’re called to pray with this family and be part of their story: Please pray for healing from trauma, that Pastor Salcedo’s family will feel God’s presence and turn to Him for their comfort and strength. Pray for his church and other church leaders who may be fearful. And pray with us for protection for the Open Doors team as they travel to an area in the midst of one of the region’s deepest security crises.
*representative name used for security reasons