Following Biblical mandates carries a high price for religious leaders in Mexico

A religious leader and his colleague are kidnapped from a migrant shelter; they have not been seen or heard from since. Another is assaulted, extorted and threatened at gunpoint. Both provided protection to migrants and asylum seekers trapped on the border. In the same country, religious leaders warn that threats and attacks against them constitute one of the most serious problems facing churches today. Ironically, all this is taking place in what is considered to be one of the most religious countries in the world, Mexico.

The worsening situation for migrants and asylum seekers passing through Mexico has been exacerbated by the implementation of the US’ Migrant Protection Program (MPP) also known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ at the start of 2019.[1] The policy has made it increasingly difficult for migrants to win asylum cases in the US, only 0.1% of cases have been successful, and many have sought refuge in church-run migrant shelters across Mexico while they wait, especially at the northern border. On 28 February 2020, a US federal appeals court ruled that that the Remain in Mexico policy was illegal.

While many Protestant and Catholic leaders have responded to the rising levels of need in an outworking of their faith by following commands to help the poor,[2] shelter the homeless,[3] and love the foreigner,[4] their work makes them increasingly exposed to threats and attacks from organised criminal groups who prey on the vulnerable migrant population.

Continue reading “Following Biblical mandates carries a high price for religious leaders in Mexico”

FoRB on the Frontlines: “If I can kill a priest then I can kill anyone”

In several Latin American countries, religious leaders often take on the roles of community leader and human rights defender. As a result, these leaders often face harassment, intimidation and even violence at the hands of state and non-state actors. Over the next few weeks CSW will be presenting interviews with religious leaders working in the region to highlight their experiences on the frontlines of freedom of religion or belief.

Father Omar Sotelo Aguilar works in Mexico for the Catholic Multimedia Centre (CCM) documenting attacks against Catholic priests.

“In recent years Mexico has been a dangerous place for journalists, priests and other religious leaders. I have been a Catholic priest and a journalist for about 25 years now, so I face a double risk. But even without taking this into account, we are as exposed as any other person.

I decided to approach this work from a journalist’s perspective as it is an issue that was not very visible, but was a very harsh reality. Good journalism, like good advocacy, is based on facts, figures and documentation.

Continue reading “FoRB on the Frontlines: “If I can kill a priest then I can kill anyone””

En la línea de fuego frente a la LdRC: “Si puedo matar a un cura entonces puedo matar a cualquiera”

En algunos países latinoamericanos, líderes religiosos frecuentemente desempeñan papeles como líderes comunitarios y defensores de los derechos humanos. Como resultado, estos líderes se enfrentan al acoso, la intimidación e incluso la violencia en las manos de actores estatales y no estatales. Durante las próximas semanas CSW presentará entrevistas con líderes religiosos quienes trabajan en la región para destacar sus experiencias en la línea de fuego frente a la libertad de religión o creencia (LdRC).

El Padre Omar Sotelo Aguilar trabaja con el Centro Católico Multimedial (CCM) en México documentando ataques contra sacerdotes.

“En los últimos años México ha sido peligroso para periodistas, sacerdotes y otros líderes religiosos. Yo soy sacerdote católico y periodista desde hace ya 25 años, así que me enfrento a un doble riesgo. Pero independientemente de ello estamos expuestos como cualquier persona.

Decidí enfocarme en mi trabajo por el ángulo periodístico, además de ser un tema que era poco visible pero muy real y crudo. El buen periodismo, como la buena incidencia política, está basado en hechos, números y documentación.

LEE MÁS

Cultura de impunidad en México, parte 2: Años perdidos y oportunidades perdidas

La semana pasada, el Oficial de Defensa de América Latina de CSW detalló la cultura de impunidad que obstaculiza la protección y la promoción de la libertad de religión o de creencias (LdRC) en México. En este post le ponemos una cara humana a los efectos de la respuesta inadecuada del gobierno a las violaciones de LdRC, para mostrar lo que le sucede a las personas cuando las autoridades retrasan o descuidan sus responsabilidades de proteger a las minorías religiosas.

Un caso que ilustra la cultura profundamente arraigada de la impunidad que rodea los ataques a las minorías religiosas en México es el de la comunidad de Yashtinin en el municipio de San Cristóbal de las Casas en el estado de Chiapas.

Todo comenzó en 2012, cuando varias personas se convirtieron a otra religión diferente a la mayoritaria. Algunos miembros de la comunidad temían que esta nueva religión dañara sus costumbres y tradiciones y afectara negativamente a sus hijos. El 10 de junio de 2012, un grupo numeroso de la comunidad fue a la casa de Santiago Hernández Vázquez, uno de los hombres que se habían convertido.  Se llevaron a todos los que se encontraban allí y los metieron en prisión, en medio de insultos, amenazas con violencia; incluso consignas de muerte en el proceso.

Después de encarcelar a 16 hombres y niños en un espacio normalmente destinado a albergar a una sola persona, los maestros locales empleados por el gobierno falsificaron un documento que afirmaba que las familias habían decidido voluntariamente abandonar la comunidad. Las víctimas fueron obligadas a firmarlo y se les dio tres días para irse. Tras la expiración del ultimátum, 12 familias fueron expulsadas después de que los aldeanos destruyeron todas sus casas y propiedades. Para el año 2015, un total de 28 familias habían sido expulsadas de la misma comunidad.

LEE MÁS

Mexico’s Culture of Impunity Part 2: Lost years and missed opportunities

Last week, CSW’s Latin America Advocacy Officer detailed the culture of impunity that hinders the protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Mexico. In this post we put a human face on the effects of the government’s inadequate response to violations of FoRB, showing what happens to individuals when authorities delay or neglect their responsibilities to protect religious minorities.

Click here to read this post in Spanish.

One case which illustrates the deep rooted culture of impunity that surrounds attacks on religious minorities in Mexico is that of the community of Yashtinin in San Cristóbal de las Casas Municipality in Chiapas State.

Everything began in 2012, when several people converted away from the majority religion. Some members of the community were afraid that this new religion would damage their customs and traditions and negatively affect their children. On 10 June 2012 a large group from the community went to the house of a Santiago Hernández Vázquez, one of the men who had converted, and took everyone that was meeting there to prison, insulting them and threatening them with violence and even death in the process.

After imprisoning 16 men and boys in a space normally meant to hold a single individual, local teachers employed by the government falsified a document stating that the families had voluntarily decided to leave the community. The victims were forced to sign it and given three days to leave. Upon the expiration of the ultimatum, 12 families were expelled after villagers destroyed all of their homes and property. By 2015, a total of 28 families had been expelled.

Continue reading “Mexico’s Culture of Impunity Part 2: Lost years and missed opportunities”