La Luz Del Mundo – Gathering Amid Sex Crime Scandal

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About 600,000 followers of the La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World) church from 58 countries have travelled to the city of Guadalajara to take part in their traditional week-long "holy convocation," when leaders hold mass baptisms and a "holy supper."

The leader of La Luz del Mundo, Naasón Joaquín García, is justifiably absent because he was arrested in June, 2019 in the US because of allegations of human trafficking, production of child sex abuse images and forcible rape of a minor. García and three female co-defendants, who are also members of the church, are facing 26 charges. The alleged crimes were committed in California between 2015 and 2018.

Naasón Joaquín's bail was set at $50 million due to fears that his followers could raise enough money to free him and that he would then flee the country. According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the bail is the highest ever imposed on anyone in Los Angeles county. La Luz del Mundo denies the accusations.

The fundamentalist Christian organisation La Luz del Mundo or the Light of the World was founded in 1926 by García's grandfather, Eusebio Joaquín González. It describes itself as a "resurgence of the early Christian church." It is a Nontrinitarian Christian denomination with international headquarters in Guadalajara, Mexico. The organization claims to have at least 1.8 million followers in Mexico alone. However, only 188,326 people stated their religion as being Luz del Mundo, says Mexico's official census (in Spanish) carried out in 2010. In recent years, the organisation's influence has spread to the US, particularly in parts of California with large Hispanic populations.

Female members of the church follow a dress code that includes long skirts and use head coverings during services. Although the Church does not allow women to hold leadership positions in its religious hierarchy, women do hold leadership positions in church public relations and in the various church-operated civil organizations.

Many followers of the Light of the World church are absolutely sure that the leader of their church is innocent. "I'm telling you with 100% certainty: he's innocent. He's an honorable man. His heart is a precious work of God," 48-year-old Andres Riquelme from Panama told AFP. Elpidio Acevedo, a 60-year-old man from Mexico who was among the newly baptized, said: "The church has never doubted for a moment that God will give his answer. We know that [he] is an honorable man, an innocent man. We're waiting for God, patiently and in prayer."

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