Attack on church youth group a disconcerting shift in Mexico

By July 17, 2012

Mexico (MNN) — A gang of nearly a
dozen armed people stormed into a church youth retreat near Mexico City
on Saturday and went on an hours-long rampage of beatings, robberies, and rape.

Any connection between the gang and
the drug cartels is still unconfirmed. However, Mexican authorities say that campers
and hikers have been targeted in the past by common criminals, and the region
is known for violent drug-related crime.

said, the attack on children presents a disconcerting change. Tim Glenn with Compassion International says
they have several projects in the region between Oaxaca and Mexico City. While none of their sponsored kids were
victims of the attack, "I think it's a scary new venture in the active
criminal activities. Historically, in the past they left the church alone,
they left the kids alone. This new act of violence is a step in the wrong

Because Compassion's Child Development Centers and other projects are in somewhat secluded
areas, they do take precautions to prevent such attacks. Glenn explains, "One of the things we
require of our church partners is that they have a safe place for kids to go so
that they can learn, they can play, they can grow and be away from these
type of things in their community."

while the Mexico attack is a step in the "wrong direction," Glenn says the
exact opposite is happening in nearby El Salvador. The country's two largest street gangs called
a truce.

Up until now, the cycle of gang violence made the country the most murderous in the
world last year after neighboring Honduras. Glenn says, "Part of that agreement was that they were going to stay
away from the kids, agreeing that they weren't going to try to get kids to
join. They were going to stay away from kids as targets of their

Glenn goes on to say, "One of the things that came out of that truce in El Salvador
is one of the gang leaders saying that they'd finally come to the realization that
'all we're doing is hurting each other, killing each other, and we're not
getting anywhere.'" As a result
of the truce, the homicide rate has
been cut in half in just four months. In fact, police say the most dramatic change
was noted on April 14, a day when El Salvador recorded its first 24 hours
without a murder.

says El Salvador provides a great example that he hopes others will follow. "The sooner the gangs and gang leaders
realize the affects they have on their own communities, the safer our
own kids will be."

the meantime, the Church needs a lot of prayer in Central and South America
where gang activity is on the rise and growing increasingly violent. "Gang activity, sadly, is a reality in a
lot of the developing world. Kids who have very little to cling to go to a
gang for some source of acceptance and relationship."  

says Glenn, Compassion International is making a notable difference. Sponsorships
help with education and more. The Gospel
is what transforms the community from within. Getting the Gospel to the streets
is the hard part. "All we can do is
pray for the protection of our kids and communities, and bring our kids to the
safe haven of that local church that
Compassion partners with."

church youth group that suffered Saturday's attack has a lot of healing to do
emotionally and physically. Glenn urges
prayer support for the Gospel workers who are on the front lines. "One of
the first prayer needs that we have is for the church to be the Church in those
communities, for the body of Christ to step up and say 'we're going to take
these kids under our wings. We're going to give them a safe place. We're going
to protect them  from this type of thing
so that they don't have to look to a gang for relationship and

Compassion's work in Mexico began in 1976. There are currently more than 20,500 children participating in 130 child development centers. Compassion partners with churches to help them provide Mexican children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

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information on sponsorships.

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