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.

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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

The cost of backtracking: delays in Colombia’s peace process risk a return to violence

In November 2016 a revised peace agreement was signed between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–Army of the People (FARC-EP). The deal was considered a big win by many, bringing an end to a conflict which spanned over five decades and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

This celebration has been considered both “justified and premature.” In the following years parts of Colombia have enjoyed a somewhat fragile peace, but recent developments have raised concerns that this peace could shatter altogether.

Government foot-dragging

Particularly concerning is the current government’s approach to the 2016 agreement. Since his election in June 2018, the President Iván Duque Márquez-led administration has consistently slowed down the process of implementation.

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Central African Republic: is justice being sacrificed for the illusion of peace?

On 21 May, over 26 people were killed and dozens injured when an armed group attacked two villages in the north west of the Central African Republic (CAR). The attacks were reported by the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR, MINUSCA, which confirmed that twelve people were killed in Koundjili village and 14 in Djoumjoum village. 

Whilst reports of violent and devastating attacks on civilians in CAR are not new, these attacks represent a new challenge for the recently re-constituted government following the latest peace agreement between the government and armed groups.

The alleged perpetrator of the attacks on the two villages is the rebel group known as 3R (Return, Reclamation and Reconciliation). The group was formerly part of the Seleka alliance that took over the country following a coup in March 2013.  The alliance was subsequently disbanded, but armed groups fragmented and seized territories outside of the capital, Bangui.

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Attacks on places of worship: Armed groups raise the stakes in the Central African Republic

Attacks on places of worship in the Central African Republic (CAR) are not a new phenomenon.

In March 2013, the predominantly Muslim rebel alliance, Seleka, seized power, and in the crisis that followed, there were reports of looting and attacks on worshipers in churches initially, spreading to mosques and other places of worship as the conflict assumed an increasingly religious dimension.

Even after the election of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra three years later, attacks on places of worship continue at a disturbing rate.

In the capital city Bangui, tensions flare periodically near the KM5 district. In May 2018, at least 15 people, including a clergyman, were killed and 100 injured in an attack on the Our Lady Fatima Catholic Church. On 7 February 2017, three churches were burned and a pastor killed in the same district.

Attacks such as these have taken a new and alarming turn since November 2018.

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