Mexico is a secular country, but it is also an extremely lawless one, prompting the Roman Catholic Church to brand it “the most dangerous country in the world to exercise priesthood.” In the 2022-2023 period twenty-seven killings of persecuted Christians were recorded by the new GCR Violent Incidents Database, the eighth highest in the world.
The primary persecutors are organized crime gangs, especially linked to violent drug cartels. Pastors are targeted for extortion because of their presumed links to western donors. One pastor in Monterrey was visited by cartel thugs who gave him the familiar choice – “sliver or lead.” They said, “pay us $5000 a month or you get a bullet.”
Christians in the rural regions are much more likely to suffer violence as the police fear to go into these regions run as fiefdoms for a local “godfather” figure. Believers also from indigenous religious backgrounds also face a backlash from the locals in their village and have to flee to the towns after being beaten up or burned out.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
“They shot my pastor son as he was walking down the street with me. His blood sprayed over me as I held him dying. I went to the local cartel leader whom I knew had ordered the killing and asked him why. He replied, ‘He teach bad things.” I said back to him, ‘But he taught people to be kind, and faithful, and honest.’ The godfather replied, ‘Exactly. He teach bad things.’ I realised that those who taught honesty in the name of Christ were enemies to these criminals.”
MOTHER OF SON SHOT IN OAXACA PROVINCE, SOUTHERN MEXICO
History of Christianity
The Spanish explorer Amerigo Vespucci arrives in 1497 and Roman Catholics missionaries followed soon after when Franciscan missionaries arrived in 1524. For all five centuries since the Catholic Church has dominated, often wiping out indigenous peoples and religions in the process. Catholics number 115 million in the country today, although it is thought that many of these now count themselves as Pentecostals. Protestants arrived in 1824 and now number around nine million.