The 500 worshipers at the Christian Center El Shaddai in the Mexican state of Michoacan were stunned last Sunday when masked gunmen rushed into the church firing machine guns into the air above their heads. The armed assailants abducted the church’s pastor, Josue Ramirez Santiago, before the eyes of the terrified congregation. Within 24 hours, the kidnappers contacted Santiago’s family demanding the staggering sum of 20 million pesos ($1.8 million US dollars) for his safe return. It is highly unlikely that Santiago’s family or church body can raise such a huge amount. Even if the family could raise such an immense sum – considered doubtful – payment would not guarantee that the victim would be returned alive.
According to Arturo Farela, director of the National Fraternity of Evangelical Churches, organized crime syndicates and drug cartels have targeted Christians because they view churches as revenue centers and because churches support programs for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics. “The majority of rehabilitation centers that have been attacked by organized crime in Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Tepic and other places belong to the evangelical community,” Farela said in a declaration regarding the kidnapping of Ramirez.
“Furthermore, some 100 Mexican or foreign pastors who lived in Ciudad Juarez have had to abandon the city because of the threats and demands for money.” Farela stated that 100 Mexican clergymen have been kidnapped in recent years, with 15 of them losing their lives to organized crime. In numerous other cases, children of pastors have been kidnapped, including one from Matehuala, San Luis Potosi, who has not been heard from for about six months. The college-age daughter of a prominent pastor in Mexico City was held by kidnappers for a week but was released when the criminals grew tired of the father’s prayers every time they telephoned him; the family has not revealed whether money was given for her return.
Father, we pray for pastor Josue and for the dangerous situation he’s been placed in. We ask for a miraculous outcome, either that the money will be raised and the pastor returned, or that they captors set him free. We pray that through this, believers would be united in prayer and draw closer to You. May Christians be protected instead of targeted, and may Your grace be shown to non-believers, that they might come to a saving knowledge of the gospel. Amen
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