A pastor in southwest Mexico was shot and killed during a church service on Sunday amid ongoing targeting of faith leaders by criminal gangs.
According to international watchdog charity group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Pastor Alfrery Líctor Cruz Canseco was preaching from the pulpit of the Fraternidad Cristiana church in the town of Tlalixtac de Cabrera in the Oaxaca state when he was shot at point-blank range.
The attacker did not attempt to shoot anyone else and congregants were able to prevent his escape, leading to his arrest. Pastor Canseco died on the way to the hospital after the attack, leaving behind a wife and children.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and congregation of Pastor Cruz Canseco,” international watchdog group Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Chief Executive Merwyn Thomas said. “The fact that he was targeted while in the pulpit is particularly shocking.”
“We also remain concerned for the wellbeing of Pastor Méndez Ruiz and urge the Mexican government to spare no effort in ensuring his safe return, investigating all of these crimes and prosecuting those responsible,” Thomas also said.
CSW believes criminal groups are largely behind the attacks, though the motives are unknown. “Even though no wars are being fought on our soil, our country is the nation with the highest number of murders of priests,” Rev. Sergio Omar Sotelo Aguilar, director of the Catholic Multimedia Center in Mexico, told USA Today.
The motive for the murder on Sunday, August 18, is not yet known; however, it comes in the wake of several attacks on faith leaders in the region, including the enforced disappearance of Pastor Aarón Méndez Ruiz, who ran a shelter for Cuban immigrants, on August 3.
Continue to pray for family of Pastor Canseco and his congregation, and for the release of Pastor Aarón Méndez Ruiz who has been missing since August 3.
Mexico ranks as the 39th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.
Open Doors, which monitors persecution in dozens of countries, reports that one factor for the persecution of Christians and Catholics in the country is because organized crime continues to go unconfronted by the government.