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Costa Rican priest shares his journey from intelligence agent to the Catholic priesthood

Father Luis Enrique Guillén. / Credit: Archdiocese of San José

CNA Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Father Luis Enrique Guillén left a police career in the National Intelligence and Security Directorate of Costa Rica to give his life to the Lord in the Catholic priesthood.

“The experience of the priesthood is very beautiful. It has been a bit of everything, but I can openly say that nothing I gained before compares to what God has given me in this ministry,” Guillén, a priest now for more than 20 years, said in a recent interview with the Costa Rican channel Teletica.

The priest recounted that, before becoming a priest, he had several jobs and even had a girlfriend.

“After leaving school, my first job was as a school teacher. Later, I took a position at the Juan Santamaría Airport in flight operations, and then I spent seven years working in the Intelligence and Security Directorate (DIS),” he commented.

The DIS is a police agency under the Ministry of the Presidency of Costa Rica. According to its regulations, its functions include “intelligence and investigations” to “ensure the security of the State.”

Guillén said that “in the DIS I worked for seven years and so I still maintain a connection, but [now] as a chaplain. After working for that time, [I] began the whole vocational discernment process.”

Guillén, 52, said that he responded to God’s call when he was 24.

“At 24 years of age, I think that maturity and the passing of the years made me question what I wanted, where to go. That made me wonder: ‘And why not what I had once thought about ?’” he recalled.

“Back then I even had a girlfriend, I talked to my parents and told them that I wanted to give myself a chance at the seminary, whether it was three weeks, three months, or three years. And here I am, I am already on my way to 21 years of priesthood and 10 years of being a chaplain for the Costa Rican Public (police) Force,” he added.

Guillen also noted that the priesthood means learning to renounce material goods and trusting fully in God’s providence.

“It’s giving up credit cards, a monthly salary, and starting to depend a lot on divine providence, which is manifested through the charitable action of people or depending again, a little, on the family,” he said.

Finally, he stressed that “God never fails, he is always faithful,” because he “always gives us what we need.”

Guillén was recently installed as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in the city of Curridabat in San José province. He was ordained on March 19, 2002.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Mexico priest recounts ‘amazing’ confession of accident victim he stopped to help

One car was damaged after an accident on a road in Mexico, witnessed by Father Salvador Nuño, who stopped to ask if the man in the car needed help. The man made a surprising request: “I want to confess.” / Credit: Father Salvador Nuño/Facebook

CNA Newsroom, Jan 31, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

After getting into a bad car accident on a highway in Mexico, a young man was approached by a Catholic priest at the scene and made a surprising request: “I want to confess.”

Father Salvador Nuño, a Legionary of Christ priest who serves in Monterrey, Mexico, shared the story on Facebook Jan. 27.

“Today I was going down the road with my parents and my brother Alex and at one point, a car began to pass us. Suddenly the driver lost control and began to spin through the air. It almost came down on top of us,” the Mexican priest recounted.

“We stopped to assist him to see if he needed any help. We called 911 and the young man got out [of the car] extremely terrified, pale,” the priest related.

Nuño continued: “I told him: ‘I’m a priest and he’s a doctor. You need something?’ ‘I want to confess,’ he replies. An amazing confession.”

“The Lord granted him to be born again,” Nuño wrote. “He received the blessing and also a free appointment with the traumatologist. Nothing worse happened.”

“I hope we never forget to commend ourselves to God and the Virgin before any trip,” the priest encouraged.

“Let’s pray for the priests, the doctors, and all those who provide their services as good Samaritans,” Nuño concluded his story.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Exiled priest says bishop on trial in Nicaragua created secret human rights office

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Credit: Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CC BY-SA 4.0)

CNA Newsroom, Jan 30, 2023 / 10:20 am (CNA).

Exiled Nicaraguan priest Uriel Vallejos recounted how the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, who has been held under house arrest since Aug. 19, created a secret human rights office to address the persecution coming from the dictatorial regime of President Daniel Ortega.

In an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly Alfa y Omega published Jan. 26, the priest first clarified that there is no international warrant for his arrest.

“You’re not going to believe it, but it was a hoax by the government. They said that they had asked Interpol for my capture, but a contact within the U.N. confirmed to me that the Ortega regime had not officially issued any request against me,” the priest told the weekly at an undisclosed location.

Vallejos explained that both Álvarez and he “are accused of conspiracy to undermine national sovereignty and security and spreading fake news to the detriment of the State.”

In a hearing held Jan. 10 amid complaints of irregularities in the proceedings, the court determined that the bishop’s case will go to trial.

Three days later the justice system issued a “fabricated” list of witnesses against the prelate, some of whom had nothing to do with the case and didn’t even know beforehand that their names were on that list.

Vallejos said that the persecution against the Catholic Church worsened with the anti-government protests in 2018, when bishops and priests responded by “telling the truth about what was happening and siding with the people.”

At that time, people began to come asking for help, the priest explained.

For example, the priest said “one had their son imprisoned, another had been killed, a third had had to go into exile.”

Given the situation, Álvarez called together his priests and told them that he would open a secret human rights office to help these people and make their cases known.

“At that meeting he asked who freely wanted to participate and warned that whoever did could end up in jail or in exile,” Vallejos told Alfa y Omega.

Arrest and escape

The priest said that at his Divine Mercy parish in Sébaco in the Diocese of Matagalpa, soldiers arrived to record his homilies to later use against him.

He also was the director general of the Sébaco Catholic Channel and Radio, which operated on the parish premises. The station was forcibly shut down by the dictatorship on Aug. 1, 2022. Riot police prevented Vallejos and a group of the faithful from leaving the rectory.

The police “settled into the chapel and our power was cut off. We also had no food,” the priest recounted. The parish remained under siege for three days until Aug. 4, when Vallejos was arrested and taken away.

“The president of the bishops’ conference told me that the government wanted me in jail, but Rolando Álvarez began to negotiate and got them to accept my going to the seminary in Managua in exchange for my silence,” the exiled priest related.

Shortly after, the priest fled the country to Costa Rica, where he received help from the local Church.

“I cannot silence the truth, although I’m afraid that because of this interview they may torture the priests who are in jail,” Vallejos concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Five things to know about the violence racking Peru

Riot policemen clash with demonstrators during a protest in Lima on Jan. 24, 2023. / Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Jan 26, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Violent protests have been taking place for more than a month in different regions of Peru and have claimed at least 54 lives due to clashes with law enforcement. 

The Peruvian bishops have condemned the violence and called on the authorities to find solutions to the crisis. On Jan. 22, Pope Francis called for dialogue and respect for human rights.

The following are five key points to understand the ongoing social and political crisis in Peru.

1. When did the protests start in Peru?

The violent demonstrations began after the arrest of former president Pedro Castillo, a communist, who failed in his Dec. 7, 2022, attempt to carry out a coup by dissolving Congress and ruling by decree. Protests have included roadblocks, attempts to take over airports, attacks on police facilities, and even a mob burning a policeman alive.

The violence has intensified in recent days, amid the call to “take Lima” on Jan. 19, which mobilized thousands of protesters from various regions of the country to converge on the Peruvian capital.

These demonstrations are the most recent point in a political crisis in Peru resulting in six presidents in the last seven years, three of them removed from office by Congress amid accusations of corruption: Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Martín Vizcarra, and now Pedro Castillo.

2. Who is Pedro Castillo?

Pedro Castillo, a member of Peru Libre, an openly Marxist and Leninist party, is a school teacher who came to power in April 2021 after winning the presidential election in the second round against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori.

Fujimori, who governed Peru between 1990 and 2000 and is considered a right-wing politician, was sentenced for various crimes, including corruption, embezzlement, and command responsibility for two massacres of civilians in the Barrios Altos neighborhood of Lima in 1991 and at La Canuta University on the outskirts of Lima in 1992.

During the election campaign, Pedro Castillo and other members of Peru Libre were accused of ties to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist terrorist group Shining Path, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the country in the 1980s and 1990s.

Since he took office, accusations of corruption have accumulated against Castillo, his family, and his entourage. The day he attempted to carry out a coup, the Peruvian Congress was scheduled to discuss the possibility of impeaching him due to moral incapacity, which they did that same day.

Castillo was arrested by the Peruvian National Police when he was on his way to the Mexican embassy in Lima to request political asylum. Following the constitutional order of succession to the presidency, Castillo was replaced by his vice president, Dina Boluarte, also of Peru Libre, who was sworn in on Dec. 7, 2022.

3. Who are the protesters?

There is no specific group that claims to be organizing the protests, but protesters include student groups, indigenous communities, and radical leftist organizations from various parts of the country.

According to the official ANDINA news agency, Gen. Óscar Arriola, official spokesman for the Peruvian National Police and head of the Criminal Investigation Directorate, said Jan. 13 that members of the terrorist group Shining Path were among the protesters.

“We’re not maintaining that in the protests everyone is a terrorist, but the population, which is exercising its legitimate right to protest, should know that at its side they have people linked to the Shining Path,” he warned.

In a recent statement, Archbishop Javier del Río Alba of Arequipa, one of the southern regions of the country hardest hit by the violent demonstrations, said that “under these circumstances it would not make sense to deny that Peru is a country in conflict and to affirm that the convulsion that we are experiencing is the work of only a small radical group. That group exists, but it finds in the most marginalized population the breeding ground to incite violence.”

The public National University of San Marcos, on whose campus space was given to groups that came to the capital to participate in “taking Lima" to camp, reported that on the night of Jan. 20 a group of protesters beat and expelled security guards from the university and stole security equipment.

According to a Jan. 20 report from the ombudsman’s office, at least 44 civilians have died in clashes, while another nine died “due to traffic accidents and incidents related to the blockade.”

4. What are the protesters asking for?

The demands of the protesters are diverse, but three main ones can be grouped together: the dissolution of Congress, holding a Constituent Assembly to change the 1993 Political Constitution of Peru that is rejected by sectors of the radical left, and the resignation of Dina Boluarte, whom many of the protesters consider to have carried out a coup by following the constitutional order of succession to the presidency and replacing Pedro Castillo.

5. What has the Catholic Church said in the face of the growing violence in Peru?

In the most recent of its repeated calls for an end to the violence and for dialogue, the Catholic Church in Peru offered to “mediate” between the protesters and the Peruvian authorities.

“The death of more than 50 Peruvian brothers is a deep wound in the heart of our people as well as the suffering of all the injured, civilians, and police officers,” the Peruvian bishops said.

On Jan. 22, Pope Francis said: “I join the Peruvian bishops in saying: No to violence, wherever it comes from! No more deaths!”

“I invite you to pray so that the acts of violence in Peru end. Violence extinguishes the hope of a just solution to the problems,” the Holy Father appealed.

The Office of the President of Peru expressed in a Twitter post its gratitude “to His Holiness Pope Francis for keeping Peru in his prayers.”

“That is also our path: the cessation of all acts of violence and dialogue between brothers of the same nation,” the government of Dina Boluarte said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Bishop remembers slain journalists in Mexico on feast day of their patron saint

null / Microgen/Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Jan 25, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

On the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists, Bishop Francisco Javier Acero, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Mexico, remembered and asked for prayers for the members of the media who have been murdered in Mexico and for their families.

According to the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico, between 2000 and 2018, a total of 134 journalists were murdered and 20 have been forcibly disappeared.

The Mexican Bishops’ Conference stated in a video calling for a day of prayer for the victims on Jan. 15 that in the last 10 years “at least 80 journalists have been murdered in Mexico for practicing their profession despite pressure from civil society and international organizations.” 

In a video released by the Archdiocese of Mexico, Acero said that “in Mexico, defending the truth costs your life.”

“We’re not talking about Middle Eastern countries, no, no, we’re talking about our real Mexico. Defending the truth costs your life,” he stressed.

In 2022, 11 journalists were murdered in Mexico. In a report published in early December 2022, the international organization Reporters Without Borders considered the country to be the most dangerous place to practice journalism in the world, worse than Ukraine, Haiti, Syria, Yemen, and Brazil.

In his video message, a segment of the Jan. 23 live broadcast of “The Voice of the Bishop” program, Acero asked that before turning in for the night, “we pray an Our Father for all the journalists who defend human rights but especially for the families of these 11 journalists who gave up their lives to defend the truth.”

Given the prevalence of organized crime, common criminality, and corruption among politicians it is hard to say who is behind the killings.

Bishop Acero, originally from Spain, came to Mexico 20 years ago and is a naturalized Mexican citizen.

Pope Francis named him an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Mexico in November 2022.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Church in Bolivia denounces ‘perverted curriculum’ with gender ideology for children

null / Credit: Pixabay

CNA Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Father Pedro Flores, delegate of the Educational Community of the Local Church of the vicariate of Beni in Bolivia, criticized the “perverted curriculum” on comprehensive sexual education presented by the Ministry of Education.

In a Jan. 20 press conference, Flores pointed out that the content, which will be taught in schools beginning in the Initial Level (0-6 years old), “is a perverted curriculum, which will pervert the minds of children.”

“Under the umbrella of what sex education is, they want to present gender ideology and show, as if there were a third way, the identity of the human person,” Flores criticized.

The priest called on the entire population to express itself in the face of “such a perverse action as this.”

The president of the Association of Parents of La Salle School, Jeannine Vaca Cuellar, announced a mobilization to stop this interference in the education of their children.

“We cannot allow the Ministry of Education to come and tell us how we’re going to educate our children,” she said.

Several days ago, the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference urged citizens to not be mere observers in this process that profoundly affects families and society.

The conference also asked the Ministry of Education to review and take into account the demands that teachers and parents have already made. The bishops called on parents to have a “critical sense” based on principles and values, not on “ideological impositions.”

The new curriculum was announced in December by the Ministry of Education. On Jan. 3, Ministerial Resolution 001/2023 was issued, a pedagogical document that regulates Educational and School Management for the year 2023.

The resolution will go into effect Feb. 1 with the start of classes in Bolivia.

Registration for the 2023 school year in Bolivia began Jan. 16. The new curriculum includes instruction on chess, origami, and sexuality for the different levels of education.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Prosecution accused of fabricating witnesses for trial of Nicaraguan bishop

Bishop Rolando Álvarez. / Credit: Diocese of Matagalpa

CNA Newsroom, Jan 23, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

An exiled priest, Father Erick Díaz, and a human rights defender, attorney Yader Morazán, have charged that the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua is manipulating and “fabricating” witnesses for the trial that it is preparing against the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez.

Díaz, who lives in exile in the United States after leaving his country in September 2022, said on Facebook that the regime “has fabricated” a list of witnesses “to testify against Bishop Rolando.” 

The prelate has been a critic of the abuses of the Ortega dictatorship. Beginning Aug. 4, 2022, the Nicaraguan police surrounded the chancery when he and a group of priests, seminarians, and a layman were inside and forcibly confined them for two weeks, until around 3 a.m. on Aug. 19, when they broke into the building and hauled everyone away.

All were taken to the capital of Managua, where the bishop is being held under house arrest, and the others are incarcerated in “El Chipote” prison, notorious for torturing political prisoners.

At a Jan. 10 hearing, amid complaints of irregularities in the proceedings, the court hearing his case determined that Álvarez, accused of “conspiracy” and spreading “fake news” against the regime, will be brought to trial. 

The list of witnesses against Álvarez was recently published by the justice system and released on social media. Díaz pointed out in a Jan. 18 Facebook post that there are several people “who didn’t know they were on that list and realized just today that their names have been used and put there.”

“You already know what comes next. They will be issued a summons and threatened so they’ll say what [the prosecution] has prepared or they’ll tell them what they should say,” the priest noted. 

“There are some who will go happily to vent their hatred and tell lies against the bishop. There are others who put their faith first and are not capable of bearing false witness,” he said.

For the priest, “this is also a crime committed by the system involving people who know nothing and who are not willing to tell lies. They, too, are victims.”

Díaz affirmed that only God knows “each person’s heart.”

“Sooner than later everything comes to light,” he said, pointing out that eventually it will be known “who acted willingly and out of faith and adherence to his Christian, ethical, and moral principles. And who ignored his conscience and went to lie against an innocent person.”

“Besides being a sin, it’s a crime punishable by law,” he specified.

The priest shared a screenshot of a post by one of the alleged witnesses summoned to testify by the dictatorship.

The screenshot is a message from Nieves Hernández, a former worker at Radio Hermano of the Diocese of Matagalpa.

“I have never sold out nor will I betray my Church or our priests, and long live Bishop Rolando,” the post reads.

“Blessings, we continue there with our heads held high even if they involve me in something that I have nothing to do with, my conscience always clear, and I continue to support our priests and long live Christ the King, long live our bishop and priests,” Hernández added.

According to local media, another of the “witnesses” on the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s list, Juan Francisco Blandón, has apparently left the country to avoid participating in the trial against Bishop Álvarez.

Nicaraguan lawyer Yader Morazán, a human rights defender exiled in the United States, charged on Twitter that other supposed “witnesses” who will testify against the Catholic bishop have ties to the dictatorship and seek to obtain the favor of the Ortega regime.

Among them, Morazán points to Emiliano Antonio Pérez Castro, noting that “after April he was appointed delegate of the Matagalpa Ministry of Transportation. His sister-in-law is Judge Sheyla Patricia Delgado Medrano.”

“He has wanted to enter the state service for years,” Morazán said.

Another of the witnesses is Josefa Azucena Jirón López, whom the lawyer identified as “secretary of the Matagalpa Ministry of Education.”

He also singled out Elba Marina Rayo, who “works at Radio Insurrección that operates within the FSLN Department,” the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front.

It was from that department, Morazán said, “that the repression of April 2018 was directed” against the massive demonstrations that demanded the departure of Ortega, who has been continuously in power since Jan. 10, 2007.

“Before, she embraced Bishop Álvarez, and now she will testify against him,” Morazán criticized.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Meet the priest the Nicaraguan dictatorship wants to put away for eight years

Father Oscar Benavidez was found guilty of two crimes on Jan. 16, 2023. / YouTube EWTN Noticias

CNA Newsroom, Jan 21, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Father Oscar Benavidez was found guilty of two crimes at a Jan. 16 trial riddled with irregularities and consisting of only one hearing.

His service

Benavidez, 50, is originally from the town of San Isidro in the Matagalpa district of Nicaragua.

He was ordained in 2009 and has been serving the Church as a priest for 13 years.

Shortly after his ordination, he was appointed the first pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, and in 2016 he was appointed adviser to the Diocese of Matagalpa’s Youth Ministry.

After eight years as pastor of St. John Vianney, Benavidez left Nicaragua to study in Spain. Upon his return, he was appointed parochial vicar of Our Lord of Esquipulas.

In 2018, when the priest’s mother died, Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa was the celebrant at the funeral Mass, and Benavidez concelebrated. 

Álvarez has also been charged with conspiracy. The prelate has been held under house arrest since August 2022, and on Jan. 10 his case was referred to trial. 

The arrest

In May 2022, Benavidez was sent on mission to the Diocese of Siuna, where he was appointed pastor of the Holy Spirit parish in the town of Mulukukú.

During his Masses, the priest denounced the injustices committed by the Ortega dictatorship.

According to The Voice of America, after celebrating Mass at Conception of Mary chapel on Aug. 14, 2022, during which he meditated on the persecution of the prophets, he was arrested by police.

They got him out of his car and took him away with no further explanation.

The Diocese of Siuna published a statement denouncing the priest’s abduction, while the faithful prayed for him and asked God to “save Nicaragua” and protect Benavidez and all the persecuted priests.

A trial riddled with irregularities

According to the Nicaraguan media outlet 100% Noticias, Judge Nancy Aguirre Gudiel of the Tenth Court of the Criminal Trial District of Managua found Benavidez guilty of the crimes of “conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty” and “spreading fake news.”

According to the priest’s defense, his “crime” was allegedly expressing his opinion in a social media post, the contents of which apparently have never been published by the court. 

The Nicaraguan news outlet Mosaico reported that the only hearing for the trial took place in less than eight hours.

The prosecutor’s office brought in residents of Mulukukú as witnesses, one of whom didn’t even know Benavidez.

Judge Aguirre disallowed several pieces of evidence presented by the defense, including the testimony of Bishop Álvarez.

In addition, in the charges against the priest, Álvarez is accused of being a “ringleader of illegal actions.”

The judge set Jan. 24 as the date for a possible sentencing hearing, although she also left open the possibility of issuing an official decree.

In total there are nine Nicaraguan priests whom the dictatorship has accused of the crime of “conspiracy.”

Níckolas García, a journalist for EWTN Noticias, contributed to this article.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Petition denounces ‘direct persecution’ of pregnancy center by Mexico City health department

null / Credit: Omurden Cengiz/Unsplash

CNA Newsroom, Jan 20, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

An online petition that accuses the Mexico City Ministry of Health of the “direct persecution of the Women’s Help Centers (CAM)” and has gained more than 9,000 signatures.

The petition, launched by the Actívate (Get Active) platform, says the health ministry “is trying to take away all the vans of the Women’s Help Centers, since up to now they have impounded one unit, and they have also closed [one of] the center’s fixed locations where they serve women who decide to continue with their pregnancy.”

The Women’s Help Centers, the signature campaign explains, “perform ultrasound scans near abortion centers” and care for women “in a comprehensive way to carry their pregnancy and show them a different alternative to what the government offers.”

In a recent statement to the media outlet MVS Noticias, Oliva López Arellano, secretary of health of Mexico City, accused the pro-life pregnancy center of carrying out “deceptive practices aimed at misinforming people and on these mobile sites, mobile vans or trucks ... very close to some health centers where we have the legal interruption of pregnancy, where we have this service.”

“They misinform people, they present themselves as if they were part of the health services,” she said.

López Arellano, who since 2018 has been part of the cabinet of Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City’s head of government, said that they impounded a mobile unit and intervened at one of the locations of the Women’s Help Centers, presenting “the respective complaints” to the Mexico City attorney general’s office, because “some anomalies that we observed can be considered crimes.”

The thousands of signatories of the Actívate campaign affirm that Arellano’s accusations are “totally absurd and that it demonstrates her hatred of the pro-life centers.”

Abortion on demand has been decriminalized in Mexico City up to 12 weeks of pregnancy since 2007, when Marcelo Ebrard was mayor of the metropolis, then known as the Federal District. Ebrard is currently secretary of foreign relations under the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

During López Obrador’s term, which began at the end of 2018, and with the encouragement of his party, the Movement of National Regeneration (Morena), similar abortion laws have been passed in the states of Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Veracruz, Coahuila, Baja California, Colima, Sinaloa, Guerrero, and Baja California Sur.

Claudia Sheinbaum, a member of the Morena party, is considered one of the potential candidates of López Obrador’s party for the 2024 presidential elections.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Four Latin American countries among the top 50 most dangerous in the world for Christians

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CNA Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Open Doors organization has published an updated ranking of the top 50 countries in the world where Christians are most persecuted, and four Latin American nations have made the list.

The study revealed that “the number of persecuted Christians reached a total of 360 million worldwide.”

Since 1993, Open Doors has published an annual ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to follow Jesus Christ.

According to the study, Colombia is the most dangerous country for Christians in the Americas and ranks 22nd worldwide.

Despite the fact that most of its inhabitants profess the Christian religion, followers of Jesus in rural areas “suffer persecution from their own indigenous communities.”

The Open Doors study noted that in Colombia, “armed guerrilla groups and gangs still control and fight over large parts of the national territory.”

For these groups, the Church is seen “as a threat to their power and stability, particularly when gang members become Christians or church leaders speak out against violence and corruption.”

The next Latin American country on the list of the most dangerous nations for Christians is Cuba, ranking 27th, where the Church is constantly persecuted by the communist regime.

“Christian activists or church leaders speaking out against corruption or political issues can be arrested and imprisoned,” the study notes.

“The authorities compile a database of churches and pastors considered ‘counterrevolutionaries,’ which these Christians fear will be another way to monitor and control them,” Open Doors explained.

Mexico ranks 38th on this list and is the third most-dangerous country for Christians in Latin America.

In the Aztec country there are some 150 organized crime gangs financed by powerful drug cartels.

The study explains that Christians who live in areas dominated by these groups are constantly threatened for daring to speak out against crime.

This situation is aggravated by “the impunity and political instability that contribute to the lack of justice.”

The fourth Latin American country and last on the top 50 list is Nicaragua, which currently is ruled by the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

“Roman Catholic churches are the most susceptible to [government] opposition,” Open Doors indicated.

In addition, “the government is particularly hostile to churches that provided shelter and care for people during the widespread protests that broke out against the country’s dictatorial regime in 2018.” 

Topping the list published by Open Doors is North Korea, which continues to be a country “extremely hostile to Christians.”

“If discovered by the authorities, believers are either sent to labor camps as political prisoners where the conditions are atrocious, or killed on the spot — and their families will share their fate as well,” the report stated.

In North Korea, “Christianity is seen as a particular threat to the dictatorial ideology and governance of the country’s barbaric regime.”

North Korea is followed on the list by the majority Islamic countries of Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Sudan. 

Marco Cruz, director of Open Doors, believes that in order to address this extreme persecution “it’s necessary to know the reality that our brothers are facing,” he said.

In addition, he stressed the importance of responding to this violence “with extreme love.”

“This love prompts us to pray and act to respond to the needs of our brothers, helping them to remain steadfast in the love that casts out all fear,” he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.