By BosNewsLife Americas Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (BosNewsLife)– Rights activists on Wednesday, September 19, demanded a “full investigation” into the murder of Protestant Pastor Henry Rodriguez, who was shot dead near his church in the capital Bogota, after dozens of other church leaders were reportedly killed elsewhere in Colombia.
The 44-year-old was leader of the United Pentecostal Church in the Marsella neighborhood in the Kennedy sector of Bogota.
Religious rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife that the exact reasons behind Sunday’s “assassination” remain unclear, though local media quoted witnesses as saying that the murder was carried out by several professional gunmen.
Christians confirmed that Pastor Rodriguez was shot “multiple times” when leaving his church after the September 16 afternoon service. CSW reported that two men were seen “on a moped, a method commonly used in professional hits in Colombia.”
Hospital staff were unable to resuscitate him, Colombian media said.
While an assassination of a church leader is rare in Bogota, dozens of church leaders have reportedly been killed by illegal armed groups outside the capital.
The Colombian Council of Evangelical Churches (CEDECOL) Peace Commission, a CSW partner, said up to 30 church leaders are assassinated each year.
“In general, leaders are targeted because of their refusal to cooperate or support the objectives of the illegal armed groups. However, the reasons behind the murder of Pastor Rodriguez are unclear as he had not reported receiving any threats prior to Sunday’s events,” CSW explained.
Pastor Rodriguez, who was reportedly to graduate in October from the Baptist Seminary in the western city of Cali, is survived by his wife Sara, and their three children.
The missions director of the United Pentecostal Church of Colombia, Vicente Arango, stressed in published remarks: “Our heart is troubled by the departure of our brother, companion, and faithful friend. Our brother Henry Rodriguez, left for the King’s palace.”
He said the pastor “Now awaits the joyful words of our beloved Lord: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord’.”
CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that his organization is “devastated to learn of the assassination” and “extremely concerned” that the killing “was carried out so brazenly in the capital city on the steps of the church in front of many witnesses.”
He added that CSW has encouraged “the Colombian authorities to ensure that a full investigation into the murder of Pastor Rodriguez takes place soon and that those responsible are brought to justice.”