Joaquín Guzmán, the billionaire head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, escaped from a maximum-security prison on July 11th of this year. He slipped out through a mile-long tunnel outfitted with ventilation, electricity, and a motorcycle on rails.You may have seen the headlines about “El Chapo.” This is what Guzman is known as. His second prison escape highlights a weak justice system in Mexico. Also, it shows the level of corruption that exists in certain parts of Mexico due to influential drug lords . So, in addition to a general desire for justice, why should Christians care about El Chapo and other Mexican criminals? And how can this remind us to pray for Mexico?
A Surprising Ranking
Surprisingly, Mexico was ranked fifth on the list of most violent countries for Christians in 2014. This ranking was based on a seventeen-month survey of “persecution incidents” by Open Doors. The anti-Christian violence can be attributed in part to the criminal organizations and drug cartels that have targeted Christians and churches. They see churches as revenue centers. Therefore, crime organizations target them for extortion. Churches offer rehab and support services to drug users. This is another reason drug lords target them, according to Open Doors.
The violence in Mexico appears to be much greater in the southern states, where the traditional laws make it difficult for Christian converts. Those who do not accept the practices of the local community face ostracization. Sometimes they face persecution. As a result, Mexico is ranked #38 in 2015 on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List, which ranks countries in terms of their persecution of Christians. This ranking is based on different types of persecution, including discrimination from the government, social pressure, or outright physical violence.
Closer Than You Think
The persecution of Christians in Mexico is a reminder that intense pressure and physical hostility aren’t just problems far across the ocean on another continent. It happens right in our backyard. It happens in the same country where many Americans choose to vacation. Of course, not every area of Mexico is hostile to followers of Christ. And we shouldn’t mistake the influence of organized crime as the attitude of most Mexicans toward Christians. After all, over 90% of Mexicans self-identify as Roman Catholic. Still, these realities remind us that opposition to Christ comes in many shapes and sizes. It reminds us that following him can be costly in many places around the world, even right next door.
Pray for Mexico
As you pray for persecuted believers around the world and for the spread of the gospel, here are some specifics on Mexico:
- Pray for believers to endure and bear witness to Christ in the face of pressure and persecution.
- Pray for the gospel to be proclaimed clearly. The overwhelming majority of Mexicans self-identify as Catholic (around 90%). Only around 8% identify as evangelicals out of a population of over 122 million people.
- Pray for the 32 unreached people groups consisting of over 1.4 million people.
- Pray for the 8 unreached people groups. For example, groups that have no church-planting strategy underway to reach them. This accounts for over 156,000 people.
- Pray for the reduction of organized crime and pray for criminals to face just sentences.