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.

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FoRB on the Frontlines: “We were ready for one of the family to be killed”

Dabrina Bet-Tamraz is an Iranian Christian human rights defender who currently resides in exile in Europe. In her home country, her entire family faces intense pressure from the Iranian government; her father, mother and brother have been charged with national security-related crimes for participating in everyday religious activities.

Dabrina has dedicated her life to advocating for her family and others like them facing persecution in Iran. She has raised their cases at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, as well as with President Donald Trump when she attended the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in the USA. In this interview she sheds light on her experiences as a young Christian in Iran, and on the current situation for her family and other Christians in the country.

“Growing up as a Christian in Iran, it was always obvious we were treated differently. Until I was about ten, the church experienced a decade of severe persecution. Pastors were being killed, churches were under massive pressure, and my parents were regularly taken in for interrogation.

When I was a teenager we were constantly under surveillance; we were bugged and there were spies in the church. It began to make us question everything everyone says. We didn’t know who we could trust.

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Hong Kong Protests 2: An interview with a Chinese human rights advocate

Since June 2019, Hong Kong has seen unprecedented protests in which millions of citizens have taken to the streets calling for democracy and respect for human rights. Despite a repressive and violent government response, demonstrations remain ongoing seven months later.

CSW recently spoke to a Chinese human rights advocate, who shared his views on the current situation and what may lie ahead for Hong Kong.

The protests began in response to a proposed extradition bill. Now that the bill has been officially withdrawn, why are people still protesting?

The withdrawal of the extradition bill is just one of the Hong Kong protesters’ five demands, so the protests continue. They also want to be able to vote for their own leader, and for there to be an independent investigation committee to look into violations by the police. These things are also very important to the protesters, so just withdrawing the law couldn’t satisfy the public.

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VIDEO: FoRB on the Frontlines in Vietnam, an interview with Nguyen Van Dai

Nguyen Van Dai is a Vietnamese human rights lawyer who has provided legal advice and representation to victims of human rights abuses, including victims of violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), across Vietnam. His work has led to him being repeatedly harassed and attacked by individuals working for the authorities.

Dai spent four years in prison from May 2007 to March 2011, followed by a further four years under house arrest. In December 2015, just months after Dai had completed his house arrest sentence, he and his colleague were taken into police custody once again as he was preparing to meet European Union representatives who were in Hanoi for the annual EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue.

Dai subsequently spent a further two and a half years in prison before being released to exile Germany in June 2018. Last year he visited the UK and told CSW his story in his own words. Watch the video below:

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FoRB on the Frontlines: “Everyone’s hatred was ever present”

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 past few weeks CSW has been presenting interviews with religious leaders working in the region to highlight their experiences on the frontlines of freedom of religion or belief.

Yilber is a Protestant pastor based in Cuba.

“I have received so many threats in my life as a Christian that there are, honestly, too many to count. This is something I want to describe, and to do this I won’t rely on generalisations or abstract, subjective examples, I will expose the scars borne by my family ever since we left our town to do pastoral work.

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