A Colombian teenager who faced persecution and has been moved to a safe house says she is afraid for her family's safety.
According to Open Doors USA, the 15-year-old girl, Valentina, is originally from the Cauca region in Colombia. The region in southwestern Colombia is the home to the self-governing indigenous Páez community.
The Páez community believes in elements of traditional shamanistic practices and Roman Catholicism. According to Open Doors USA, some members of the Páez community are linked to guerrilla groups and the drug industry.
Valentina allegedly faced persecution at her school, where students are taught about the Paez beliefs, The Christian Post reports.
Her father asked Valentina to be exempt from learning the religion, but he was denied. The family then began receiving threats.
"I felt I had no freedom, and I always wanted to leave — to get out," she said in a video released by Open Doors.
Valentina has since been moved to a safe house but is worried about her family.
"Sometimes, I'm afraid, and I tell my mother: 'Don't leave my sister alone,'" she said. "We've had various threats against members of my family, and one of those is with my sister. I would be afraid that all of a sudden she would … be abused because that's one of the threats we've received."
She only sees her family once a year at Christmas.
"For me, the best Christmas is when I'm with my family," she said.
Colombia ranks as the 30th worst country for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors' annual World Watch List.
"Guerrilla groups threaten, harass, extort and even murder church leaders, who are targeted because they denounce corruption, defend human rights and oppose cartels," Open Doors said. "Their children may also be targeted, to discourage church leaders from speaking out against organized crime and corruption."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Mirza Kadic
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.