Mexico's epidemic of violence first erupted in 2006, according to most accounts. But an ex-Muslim from India, who serves as a Christian pastor along the Texas-Mexican border, believes the problem began much earlier, with human sacrifice, witches, and the adoration of death in ancient Aztec days.
Bombay-born Mujahid Hussein, 41, who found Jesus aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean 17 years ago, is now known as David Elijah. He was ordained by Kings Revival Church International of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the largest and fastest growing congregation in the Middle East.
"There are few places in America more evil, or more steeped in witchcraft and demonic influences, along with false prophets, divination and corruption, than the border region of northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas," Elijah told The Christian Post.
He pastors a church, leads an evangelistic healing and deliverance ministry, and hosts a weekly broadcast, "Avivamiento Del Rey," on Radio Vida, a local Christian station in McAllen, Texas, just across the border from Reynosa, Mexico. The weekly program is heard in Spanish and English in Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean, Texas and the western U.S., on a variety of AM frequencies.
"The worship of Santa Muerte (Holy Death, or Saint Death) is widespread, especially among the drug cartels, but it's also rapidly growing among the general population in Mexico and in Hispanic communities in the U.S.," he said.
Human blood is sometimes offered to gain the favor of this idol, which is depicted in illustrations and statues as a skeleton wearing a hooded robe, holding a scythe or globe. Some link Santa Muerte to the Aztec goddess of the dead, Mictecacihuatl.
"Beheadings, like the ones we see the cartels doing, were part of ancient Aztec human-sacrifice rituals. The adoration of death and the use of witchcraft have been practiced in Mexico for longer than anyone knows, and are regaining popularity," he said.
While the violence in Mexico fills headlines, problems in the border area of south Texas seldom make the news but are just as serious, he said, especially in the spiritual realm. The population of the Rio Grande Valley is at least 90 percent Hispanic, and thousands of Mexicans from Mexico are flooding into the region, fleeing the violence in their homeland.
"A large majority of the Valley's population is Catholic, but the Catholicism here is mixed up with ancient pagan rites, witchcraft, false religions like Santeria, Voodoo, Palo Mayombe, and other demonic cults, and the worship of false saints like 'Saint' Death and Jesus Malverde," Elijah said.
"Basically, it all adds up to Satan worship, which feeds the violence and every other problem, like poverty, drought, hunger, chronic ill health, lack of jobs, and hopelessness," he said.
While the main focus of his ministry is evangelism, he said there's so much demonic activity it has to be dealt with in order to reach the lost.
"Intercessory prayer, prayer walks, extended worship, planting churches, setting up a school to train evangelists and pastors, these are just some of the things we're doing, in addition to deliverance. I grew up in India where I learned at a young age about demons and demonization. I saw what it did to people. It's real. When evil spirits invade a person's life, that person needs deliverance. Jesus set the example by casting out demons," Elijah said.
He shook his head and smiled. "Just about every Baptist who visits India becomes a Pentecostal."
Then he grew serious.
"From the syncretism here along the border, from the mixture of Catholicism, witchcraft and idolatry, come blasphemies that always arise whenever something is exalted above God. Worshiping anyone, anything, or any idol instead of the Lord God Almighty brings escalating violence, mutilations, bombings, murders and slaughters for the sake of money, power and pride.
"Mexico is now the greatest exporter of cocaine, more than Columbia. In 2004, the mayor of Matamoros (directly across the border from Brownsville, Texas) officially recognized Santa Muerte as a saint. When the local seat of authority is recognizing a demonic cult as legitimate, all hell breaks loose. There are several Satanist churches operating openly in Matamoros that used to have to hide their existence. The local population supports them. Also in 2004, videos of al- Qaida beheadings went viral on the Internet, and now that old Aztec human-sacrifice ritual is being carried out all across Mexico."
Elijah said the unclean spirits controlling the cartels have slithered into many levels of Mexican society and have also invaded the church on both sides of the border.
"When anyone begins dabbling in the occult and witchcraft, it brings spiritual defilement by attracting unclean spirits. You can't be messing around with the devil and say you're a Christian. Here in the Valley, the spirit of divination is taking over pulpits through false prophets and false prophetesses who are prophesying over people, laying on hands, causing all sorts of problems.
"The lack of discernment in the body of Christ is huge. People are impressed by what seem to be spiritual gifts, but they don't realize there's a 'familiar spirit' that counterfeits the Holy Spirit. They haven't been taught that all signs and wonders aren't from God. They don't understand that even apparent healings can be deceptions in these end times when the Bible says wickedness will abound."
In addition to the almost 50,000 estimated to have died in Mexico's drug violence, another 10,000 have disappeared without a trace. Many of these, Elijah is convinced, are the victims of Satanic rituals that require human sacrifice.
"There's lots of really gruesome stuff going on."
Many of the murders and mutilations are so horrific and unwarranted, he said, there's no reasonable explanation other than to conclude they're inspired by the devil himself.
"There's even a counterfeit Lord's Supper where instead of bread and wine, human flesh and blood are used."
Elijah said such abominations aren't taking place only in Mexico.
"Come visit McAllen, Texas, sometime and take a look at the witchcraft shops operating on Main Street. They must have plenty of customers and be making good money to be able to afford the rent on such prime locations.
"On both sides of the border, so many people go to church on Sunday, then on Monday they go to a witch to get healed. They call them curanderas, faith healers. They don't find any power in the church, so they go to someone who does have power. The only problem is, it's Satanic power, and they get worse – they get demonized."
That's where Elijah's deliverance meetings come in. They're set up like prayer meetings, beginning with what Elijah calls "extravagant worship," whereby the gathered believers sing praises to Jesus with great fervor for much longer than during a typical church worship session. He says it takes time to enter the presence of God, and many churches never get there because they seldom spend enough time worshiping.
Following praise and worship, those who feel they need deliverance are instructed to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to them their unconfessed sins, and then repent. They are prayed for, and the unclean spirits troubling them are identified by name and commanded to depart in the name of Jesus Christ.
"And usually, they do," Elijah said.
An observer for The Christian Post was present at a deliverance session involving a man from Mexico who'd heard Elijah's program on the radio and had called in, asking for help. The man was invited to Elijah's house church where, according to the man, a demon was cast out of him.
This is how he explained his experience, speaking in rapid, excited Spanish, while a woman translated.
"When the pastor commanded the evil spirit to come out, I felt like there was a kitten inside my stomach that was being pulled out of me by its tail. It was stabbing its claws deep into my stomach and holding on with all its strength because it didn't want to leave.
"It hurt me very bad, but finally it went out, and I felt like heavy chains had been lifted off me. I haven't felt this good in a really long time."
Elijah said this sort of experience occurs regularly at his deliverance meetings.
He said demons often seem to "nest" in the stomach, and usually when they're expelled, the person they're cast out from will spit up a foul, dark liquid that doesn't look or smell like ordinary vomit.
He said he'd seen much demonic activity in India, and knew it was real. He said most people in America don't believe in demons because they've never encountered them, or aren't able to recognize demonic influence for what it really is.
This article is the second in a four-part series on the effects of drug violence on Christianity along the Mexico-U.S. border. For part one, click here.