Christians in Venezuela are reeling from a shocking knife attack in which they were forced to eat pages of the Bible and had crosses cut into their skin.
The victims, all men, were beaten up by a hooded gang armed with knives and sticks in Venezuela, Open Doors reports.
The men are from a Christian church in Libertador, in Mérida State, western Venezuela.
They were at the House of Restoration, a rehabilitation centre for recovering drug addicts when the attack took place.
“They covered our faces and started to beat and stab us,” said one of the victims.
The victims have been discharged from hospital but are recovering in a secret location because of ongoing threats.
Open Doors believes that the attack was perpetuated by ‘colectivos’ – a collective made up of members from different groups working closely with the regime.
Director of advocacy and public affairs at Open Doors, Dr David Landrum said: “The cutting of crosses into the bodies these young Christians, and the forced eating of pages of the Bible is deeply disturbing.
“This premeditated attack has all the hallmarks of the local ‘collectives’ of the Maduro regime.”
Condemning the attack, he added: “This shows how Venezuela has become a dictatorial narco-state which is violently opposed to the drugs rehabilitation work of the church.”
The attack, which has been reported to police, appears to have been planned. Pastor Dugarte, who runs the House of Restoration, said he had been approached by some of the attackers a few days before. They had asked for a list of residents, something he refused to hand over.
“Before the attack, two men at a neighbourhood meeting said they were going to end the Restoration House because they did not agree with this type of program,” said Pastor Dugarte, who has vowed to continue his work.