04/07/2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on Thursday, March 31, two Christian churches in Chile, one Catholic and one evangelical, were set ablaze by supporters of the Mapuche cause, a movement of indigenous Chileans which seeks to rid the area of religions contrary to their indigenous beliefs. These were the most recent arsons out of a total of five perpetrated in 24 hours.
The first attack ensued at the commune of Padre Las Casas, where the Catholic church of Santa Joaquina was burned. At the site, a pamphlet was discovered which alluded to the Mapuche, warning that their “grandparents and ancestors have also been burned to death,” a reference to the violence committed against their ancestors by Spanish colonialists.
Just hours later, an evangelical church, the Christian Union in Antinao, Chile was also set on fire. Again, a pamphlet was found which read, “We are going to burn all churches.” This pamphlet also requested the liberation of Mapuche political prisoners.
According to Pastor Jose Dario Pineda, “We never imagined that these attacks would occur in our community. There is no conflict in our community. We are all Christians and live in peace.” The damages to the churches are estimated to be around $10 million.
This provoked governmental authorities to meet with leaders of the Mapuche in an effort to resolve this situation. The next morning, the Public Ministry named a special prosecutor to investigate the crimes in La Araucania, Chile. 11 individuals had been arrested and charged in connection with this case as of April 2.
Nate Lance, ICC’s Advocacy Manager, stated, “ICC is very troubled to hear of these attacks on churches in Chile. Chile’s constitution and other laws protect religious freedom for their people. We are pleased that a special prosecutor has been named to investigate and hold the perpetrators of these crimes responsible, and that arrests have been made. It is our prayer that this action from the government will put a swift end to this persecution and restore religious freedom to Christians in the area.”