Colombian parishioner shot dead during mass in latest incident of violence against Christians

A parishioner at Santa Cecilia was shot dead in the middle of a mass in the latest incident of the continuing violence against Christians in Colombia.

(Reuters/Jaime Saldarriaga)A boy sits next to the main church in Toribio, Cauca, Colombia, February 9, 2016.

Fernando Padilla, 25, was attending mass at the Santa Cecilia parish on the evening of Nov. 22 when a man entered the premises and suddenly started shooting him in front of the Archbishop of Cali, Dario de Jesus Monsalve Mejia. Because the mass was held during the feast of the parish patron, many people from Ciudad Cordoba and the neighboring towns were present when the incident happened, Agenzia Fides details.

The deadly shooting drew condemnation from Archbishop Mejia, who denounced the crime as an act of terror. He lamented the fact that the suspect took advantage of a church gathering to kill a person.

"Taking advantage of the gathering in churches to kill a parishioner and create terror among the faithful, goes beyond any rational consideration," Archbishop Mejia told Fides in a statement. "... Unfortunately not even the fear of God stops the absolute disregard for human life that has roots in the soul of vast sectors of our Colombian society," he continued.

This is not the first time that a murder occurred inside the Santa Cecilia parish. Two years ago, two people were killed there in the ongoing violence against Christians in Colombia.

Last month, Colombia voted against a peace deal with guerilla group FARC, whose members have targeted priests, churches, and missionaries in kidnappings, attacks, and murders. The referendum stemmed from people's feeling that the deal was too lenient on the militant group, Christian Today reports.

The ongoing civil war and persecution in Colombia have landed the country a spot on Open Doors' list of worst 50 countries for Christians to live in. The main reason for this is the role of FARC in organized crimes and violence in the country, which has killed around 220,000 and displaced almost seven million people.

Dennis Petri, the persecution charity's Latin American analyst, said Christians in Colombia continue to be targeted in violent attacks because of their influence in church, politics, media, environment protection, indigenous rights, and other aspects. For guerrilla groups such as FARC, Christian activities go against their interests and practices involving crimes.