Mexico: Church pastor stabbed in suspected religiously motivated attack

A prominent church leader has been stabbed in Tijuana, Mexico, sparking fears of rising religious intolerance, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Reuters

Pastor Guillermo Favela, the president of the Tijuana Minsterial Evangelical Alliance, was stabbed on a street near his church on May 18 after he refused to pay a bribe.

Favela, pastor of the Rios De Agua Viva Church, was assaulted by a man who demanded he pay 30,000 pesos (approximately £1,112) per month in protection money for the church. The man threatened to cut off one finger for each time the pastor refused, according to Dr Carlos E Perea Zaldivar, the president of the Baja California state Evangelical Alliance (AEBC).

When he refused to pay the money, the man stabbed Favela under his left arm before fleeing the scene.

The injury was not serious and Favela filed a formal complaint. The assailant was apprehended by authorities but has since been released.

Zaldivar told CSW the incident "could be an attack on religious freedom borne out of intolerance".

The AEBC released a statement publically condemning the attack, and demanded a full investigation and the prosecution of those responsible.

Government "should not allow these types of abuses and should persistently pursue these types of attacks, which are on the increase in our city of Tijuana," the letter reads.

"We are extremely concerned that governability is being lost, and that now the religious sector is being targeted for harassment and intimidation in order to obtain more resources through the sowing of fear."

The AEBC has said it will be "closely monitoring the performance" of authorities as the case develops.

Over the last decade, churches have increasingly become a target for extortion by criminal groups in Mexico.

The Catholic Multimedia Centre has documented the murder or forced disappearance of 13 Catholic priests and two church leaders since 2012.

"Attempts to extort churches and attacks on religious leaders, like this one, can have a chilling effect on religious freedom as those targeted come under pressure to compromise their beliefs and actively cooperate with illegal criminal groups," said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW.

"We are concerned by the increase in attacks on church leaders and deterioration in the rule of law in many parts of Mexico and call on the Mexican government to strengthen its efforts to fight impunity."

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