A little boy named Christopher's killing was not a "random idea" of his torturers
The recent news regarding the torture and murder of Christopher Márquez, a six-year-old Mexican boy, has not only upset Mexico and of all those who have heard the news; it continues to reveal darker aspects that relate it to the veneration of Santa Muerte ("Saint Death") and, consequently, to the phenomenon of cults.
This subject should be a wake-up call for those who do not see the danger of certain religious beliefs, and particularly of religious cults, in relation to the origin of horrible crimes, perpetrated by people who are submerged in a complex world of beliefs that prepare them to commit atrocities. This case is more scandalous because those who kidnapped, tortured and killed Christopher are children and preadolescents.
While it’s true that the children involved live in an environment of poverty and extreme violence, and claimed that they were "pretending to be kidnappers," the causes seem to be deeper than a lack of values and constant exposure to organized crime.
Chihuahua is one of the states with the highest rates of child homicide in Mexico: 38 children per 100,000 inhabitants. From 2005 to the present, 10,876 children have been killed in Mexico.
There is a piece of information that not all the media have taken into account when analyzing the story: the accused children venerated Santa Muerte. The neighbors mentioned to Net Noticias that the children in question belong to a criminal gang, so the murder would not have been a case of "let’s pretend to be bad guys." People living in the area declared to various local media outlets that the children venerate Santa Muerte and were indoctrinated by criminals who made them part of a sectarian cult.
The Herald of Chihuahua reported that the coordinator of the Historical and Social Studies Department of the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Dizán Vázquez Loya, holds that it should be determined if the child murderers were isolated devotees of Santa Muerte or if they are part of a formal cult. For Fr. Dizán Vázquez, a Catholic priest and an expert on cults, there are indications of a ritual: symbols, sadism, animal sacrifice, child sacrifice, ritual burial, etc. Everything indicates that the children learned from others. However, he recognizes that it is necessary to make a more thorough field investigation in order to know if an organized cult is involved.
Santa Muerte and the crime
Mexican investigators affirm that where criminal organizations grow, the veneration of Santa Muerte grows. The criminals sport tattoos and amulets with the image of Santa Muerte. The relationship between crime and this devotion in Mexico is abundantly clear. The veneration of this image is even prohibited in prisons. One of the "Tex-Mex" leaders of a cult venerating Santa Muerte is in prison, and his followers are considered satanists.
Several Mexican priests recount how churchgoers turn to the saints of the Catholic Church when they need help, but when they want supernatural help to harm someone, take revenge or feel protected from crime, they turn to the veneration of Santa Muerte.
Fr. Jorge Luiz Zarazúa, a Mexican specialist in cults, explains that the devotion to Santa Muerte is not Catholic in origin, although people often mistakenly believe it to be a popular Catholic devotion because of its incorporation of devotional elements such as the use of altars, flowers, images, and processions.
However, it is clearly a devotion tied to magic and the occult whose syncretistic origin is far from the faith of the Church. It is a devotion more closely related to witchcraft and satanism than to popular Catholic piety. According to the latest news regarding the devotion to Santa Muerte, everything indicates that it is a breeding pool of sectarian cults along satanic lines, in which the power of evil gives meaning to their lifestyle and goes hand in hand with crime and the most aberrant practices.
Cults and social vulnerability
In many areas where crime and poverty abound, cults proliferate, because they give a sense of security and self-esteem to those who live in socially disadvantaged situations, in growing fear and insecurity, and in an environment where life loses its value and the value system is turned upside-down. There is a need for increased awareness of the fact that greater social vulnerability is also a situation of greater psychological and spiritual vulnerability, in which the poor are always the victims.
Our indifference can reduce the death of Christopher to a terrible homicide and nothing more, forgetting it as just one more sad news story. But this crime, like many others, is the tip of an iceberg which, far from our sight, destroys the lives of countless children, young people, adults and elderly people, men and women, entire families who need someone to pay attention to their desperate needs.
Religious phenomena are not social trappings, as some secularists believe. Rather, religion is able to humanize people and foment great moral and spiritual values, or to destroy people’s lives, dehumanizing them until death takes full sway. The problem of cults is not an exotic subject within the study of religions; it is a social problem that requires the serious attention of us all.
Translated by Matthew Green.