Evangelical and Catholic churches targeted by radical members of a largely Christian indigenous group.
Today vandals in Santiago, Chile, firebombed three Catholic churches just ahead of Pope Francis’s scheduled visit to the South American nation on Monday.
Notes left at the scene warned that “Pope Francis, the next bomb will be in your robe,” and indicated members of the Mapuche indigenous group were responsible.
The Mapuche originate about seven hours south of the capital city, where radical members have burned down 27 Catholic and evangelical churches in the past three years.
Responsibility for the attacks is claimed by an extremist group called Weichan Auka Mapu. It leaves behind messages with demands, such as the release of Mapuche prisoners or the return of Mapuche land which it says was taken by the Chilean government in the 19th century.
A high percentage of Mapuches now identify as Christian: 55 percent are Catholic, and 32 percent are Protestant. But for others, Christians are still seen as invaders complicit in the government’s actions.
Of the 20 churches burned down between 2015 and 2016, 12 were Catholic and 8 were Protestant. In 2017, a further 7 have been torched. These churches also served as schools, meeting places, and shelters for those fleeing natural disasters. Many belonged to the poorest sectors of the poorest region in Chile, and were attended by Mapuches themselves.
The leader of an Assemblies of God church burned down in July recalled the moment his attractive wooden church—built 15 years ago using money raised by church members—was reduced to ashes.
Juan Mella, who is also head of the local pastors’ council, said the event demonstrated an intolerance among the Mapuches.
“Each human being can have their own views with regard to faith, spirituality,” he …