Colombia is 93 per cent Christian but your faith can get you killed if you stand up to the increasingly powerful drug cartels. Pastor Plinio Salcedo Molina was a father, husband and leader of a church in northwest Colombia who paid with his life.
Pastor Plinio had been in his rocking chair watching the afternoon news. The men came right into his sitting room and killed him in broad daylight.
At the sound of the gunshots everyone came running. It was a young girl from the church which Plinio pastored who saw him first.
“He was already dead when we got there,” says Plinio’s wife Alba. “I still can’t understand why or by whom he was murdered. There are still so many questions.
“Plinio was a blessing from God. He was such a lovely and mild person. He was a kind and gentle person and looked out for the community.”
Not long after Plinio was murdered in cold blood at his home in La Caucana, Antioquia, two other church pastors were also killed by illegal armed groups in the area.
Karla Emerich, spokesperson at anti-persecution charity Open Doors International, says that for drug traffickers, the Church can be a threat to their way of life.
“In eyes of the cartels, the killing of Pastor Plinio was just a warning for the Christians to stop their activities,” she says.
“They don’t want Christians helping people overcome drug addiction or trying to stop young people from being lured into the ranks of the rebels.
“The persecution of Christians in largely-Catholic Colombia, is mainly directed at Evangelicals. They preach hope in Jesus Christ as Saviour instead of drugs and violence as an escape from suffering and poverty.”
According to Open Doors, Colombian Christians who express themselves in this way pose a threat to the existing order – and Plinio paid with his life.
His children are still reeling from the horror. Daniela, his 12-year-old daughter, had been playing in the street near their house when her father was murdered. Sebastian, five, is terrified the same thing will happen to their mother, leaving him and Daniela behind.
“It’s so difficult to pick up the thread again, the daily routines,” says Alba. “Every morning I get up and I think, how am I to go on?
“I look at Daniela and Sebastian and tell myself that I have to keep going.
“Sebastian doesn’t want to go to school anymore, and I’m worried about my children’s future.
“I’m not only worried about things like education, but also that what has happened will damage their hearts in a spiritual sense.
“I pray to God for protection so that they won’t leave Him or start to hate people.
“We had to flee from our house because of the armed conflict.
“I’m worried about the safety of my children, because bad people don’t care if they go on living or not.
“I get help from people from our Church. I don’t see a day without God’s grace.
“Someone told me after the attack on Plinio that God will never leave us. We are thankful to God because we have never gone short of food and sometimes, we receive money from people we don’t know at all.
“For these people, their gift may perhaps seem a small gesture, but for me it means a great deal.”