An armed and hooded gang slashed four Christians in Venezuela with crosses and forced them to eat pages of the Bible.
According to reports reaching Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors UK and Ireland, the men were beaten up by a group of eight carrying knives and sticks on February 16.
One of the Christians, from the Evangelical Christian tradition, told Open Doors partners:
“They covered our faces and started to beat and stab us.
“They drew ‘x’ on our bodies and forced us to eat the Bible.”
After the attack the four men were taken to hospital to be treated for serious injuries – one suffered injuries to his lungs and head and two cracked ribs while others had broken limbs.
The victims belong to a Christian church in Libertador, Mérida State in western Venezuela. They had been at the House of Restoration, a rehabilitation centre for people recovering from drug addiction when the attack took place.
Open Doors believes that the attack was perpetuated by ‘colectivos’ or a collective – made up of members from different groups working closely with the regime.
Director of advocacy and public affairs at Open Doors, Dr David Landrum said: “The cutting of crosses into the bodies these young Christians, and the forced eating of pages of the Bible is deeply disturbing.
“This premeditated attack has all the hallmarks of the local ‘collectives’ of the Maduro regime.”
Condemning the attack, he added: “This shows how Venezuela has become a dictatorial narco-state which is violently opposed to the drugs rehabilitation work of the church.”
The Evangelical Council of Venezuela has denounced the assault as an act of ‘hatred towards religion’ and has called for an investigation.
Director of the House of Restoration, Pastor Dugarte has filed a report with the police.
Just days before the assault, some of those who had set upon the Christians had asked him for a list of people living in the rehabilitation centre. He had refused to give them any details.
“Before the attack, two men at a neighbourhood meeting said they were going to end the Restoration House because they did not agree with this type of program,”
said Pastor Dugarte.
All victims have now been discharged from hospital and are recovering in a new location amid ongoing threats.
Pastor Dugarte says he plans to continue with the restoration program but is fearful of more violence.