According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), since December 2015, arsonists have burned 16 churches to the ground in the provinces of Araucania and Bio-Bio, Chile.
The latest church destroyed was San Andres Chapel, which unknown assailants torched on August 9, 2016.
Most of the attacks occurred at night while the buildings were empty, but not all of them.
A June 9th attack took a more sinister twist when masked men entered the church during an evening service at Senor Evangelical Church in Temuco, Araucania. The armed men ordered the people out before burning the church to the ground.
Then in the middle of June when fire fighters and police responded to another church fire set in the middle of the night, they came under gun-fire from unknown assailants. The shooters injured one police officer.
The attacks are quite puzzling as Chile has no real history of church attacks as nearly 90% of Chileans consider themselves Christian, either Catholic or protestant. Fires were set at both evangelical and Catholic churches.
Though it is uncertain who the arsonists are, many suspect that left-wing groups pushing for Mapuche autonomy are behind the attacks. Several churches have had signs left at them calling for the release of political prisoners.
Though it is unclear why they are targeting church, if notes at two fires set on March 31st are any indication, the arsonists will continue their onslaught.
Messages left at fires set at Santa Joaquina Catholic church and the Union Cristiana Evangelical Church read “We are going to burn all the churches.”
CSW reports the attacks are creating a spirit of fear and intimidation among the Christian congregations in the region. Unfortunately, many of the churches are poor and do not have the financial resources to rebuild their facilities.
So Christians can add a new enemy to their slate.
In the Middle East, Muslim extremists are persecuting Christians with abandon, with many believers paying the greatest price with their lives. In Europe and America, governments have fined Christian businesses because of their stand on same-sex marriage and now a left-wing group in Chile is burning down churches.
Though these varied attacks from different quarters seem strange, the Book of Revelation — a written record the Apostle John’s vision of the end times — provides a clue of what is taking place.
In chapter 12, John reveals that the church, pictured as a woman, will be under spiritual attack.
17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17 NASV)
In this verse we read that the dragon (Satan) is making war against Christians.
Satan is the source of the onslaught. If there are no Muslim extremists available, then he will use others to start the persecution.
But in this chapter, where John provides a spiritual perspective on the birth of Jesus, the apostle gives a number of encouragements to Christians under fire for their faith.
The Lord has even prepared a place to shelter His servants where He will also give them nourishment.
6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she *had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
The chapter is also clear on one important point — Christians are fighting from the higher ground. The battle has already been won. God’s army has defeated Satan and driven him out of heaven (vs 7-12).
The chapter emphasizes that God’s angelic army is superior:
7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. (Revelation 12:7-8 NASV)
And though there may be martyrs, these are declared as victories, because believers were unwilling to deny their faith despite Satan’s horrific assaults:
11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (Revelation 12: 11 NASV)