Venezuela has been the scene of violent incidents that were targeted at Christian leaders and places of worship. Multiple religious leaders have been killed and robberies have been occurring in the last months.
Brother Luigi Manganiello, the headmaster of the La Salle religious institute died on January 6th as a result of the injuries he suffered in an attempted robbery. He discovered that criminals were robbing his school, when he confronted them, Manganiello was hit on the head with a toilet lid and died from his injuries. The perpetrators fled and have not been arrested yet.
Also in January, the body of Angel Isaac Ortega Romero a 19 years old catechist at the San Pedro Apóstol Parish located in Aragua, was found. The young man has been missing since October 2019. The body had been burned and thrown into a tank. The apparent reason for the murder is that the young man, following his conscience, had reported on the robbery that his colleagues were carrying out at his workplace.
In October 2020, the Roman Catholic priest José Manuel De Jesús Ferreira was shot and killed in front of his home in San Carlos (Cojedes). According to witnesses, armed criminals shot the priest when he tried to prevent them from robbing a group of Christians accompanying him.
It was also reported that multiple places of worship were robbed during 2020. On September 28, criminals entered La Coromoto Church, located in Paradise Parish, and stole several valuables after forcing the entry. In May, two churches were robbed in Sucre state: in the Jesús de la Divina Misericordia Church, Carúpano, and in the church of San Miguel Archangel, in the Caribbean River. In May, the St. Bartholomew’s Church in Maracay was robbed twice in less than a week.
Violence in the country has worsened over time, not only due to the presence of local criminal groups or the presence of Colombian guerrillas and other groups linked to drug trafficking but also for the links they have with the Venezuelan government. Criminal activities are committed with impunity and religious leaders in these contexts are also vulnerable.