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

FoRB on the Frontlines: An atmosphere of self-censorship

In the run-up to Human Rights Day on 10 December and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on 9 December, CSW has been speaking with HRDs across South Asia to find out what it means to be a FoRB defender in the region.

Julfikar is a human rights defender working in Bangladesh:

“When friends, well-wishers and colleagues frequently advise me to restrict my movement and leave my country for safety elsewhere, it becomes an indescribable mental pressure. I have been facing this reality for many years now, but it has intensified over the last one year as Bangladesh heads to the national election on December 30.

I have spent 28 years as a professional journalist. During this period, I have witnessed horrific political, religious violence, and brutal terror attacks in the name of Islam. I have investigated and covered many of those traumatic events and closely observed others. There are many more to investigate, but the situation is gradually becoming more difficult for people like me. 

In my career, I have exposed violations of human rights, religious persecution, atrocities, intimidation, war crimes of 1971 and criminal activities, abuse of law, corruption, hate campaign, propaganda and fake news on the social media with ill motives.

Continue reading “FoRB on the Frontlines: An atmosphere of self-censorship”

Extremists Emboldened As Religious Intolerance Rises in India’s Tamil Nadu state.

It has been two months since Persia Jacob was repeatedly kicked in the face when she resisted a mob of Hindu extremists who tried to snatch her Bible away from her. She wakes up with a heavy head every morning, having to take medication to relieve her of the trauma, even if temporarily, so that she can get on with her day.

The 38 year-old Christian remained persistent that she would die and couldn’t be without the Bible as they pushed and slapped her, stripping off her saree as they tried to grab it [the copy of Bible] from her. The Bible was then set ablaze along with several other copies of Christian literature.

As well as attempting to force her to convert to Hinduism, the mob of men raided four other prayer halls in Madurai District of Tamil Nadu state, as Christians gathered for Sunday worship.

Continue reading “Extremists Emboldened As Religious Intolerance Rises in India’s Tamil Nadu state.”

Impunity Breeds Distrust – Religious Leaders as Human Rights Defenders in Mexico

Who do you trust to look after your community? According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer survey, 71% of Mexican citizens would rather put their trust in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) than the government, which has the confidence of a mere 24% of the population.

These stark statistics beg the question: what could be driving such levels of distrust in the Mexican government?

Currently, Mexico is the second most dangerous country in the world to be a Catholic priest. Other religious leaders are also increasingly targeted; between November 2013 and April 2018, 30 religious leaders were killed. In April 2018 alone, three religious leaders were killed. Moreover, Mexico is the second most dangerous country in the world to be a journalist.

Religious leaders often take on the role of human rights defenders (HRDs), engaging with various human rights initiatives in order to bring the issues of their respective communities to the attention of those who can provide legal, practical or advocacy assistance. As such, these religious leaders often fulfil the role of community leaders as well as HRDs. It’s dangerous work. In 2017, 32 HRDs were killed according to a report by Front Line Defenders.

Continue reading “Impunity Breeds Distrust – Religious Leaders as Human Rights Defenders in Mexico”