Persecution of Religious Minorities Festers in Mexico

Lauro Pérez Núñez has been arrested and detained several times since leaving the Catholic church. Credit: Coordinación de Organizaciones Cristianas

Mexico is in the U.S. news daily, with most of the reporting focused on restricting illegal immigration into the United States. However, another headline about Mexico caught my attention yesterday. It read, “Mexico ‘in denial’ over Christians forced out of homes for their beliefs” (World Watch Monitor).

How can this be? Mexico is one of the closest and most valued U.S. partners. The White House recently released a Fact Sheet: United States and Mexico Relations that highlights how our two countries are economically entwined. Furthermore, according to the Pew Research Study on Religious Freedom released in 2015, Mexico ranks right behind the United States as one of the countries with the least persecution.

Mexico is home to the world’s second-largest Catholic population behind Brazil. About 95 million Mexicans, or 82 percent, identify as Catholic, but a significant portion of them practice a blend of mythologies, faiths and traditions.

But In the past decade, more Mexicans are adopting other religions or Christian denominations, which has increased the desire from religious groups for more rights. Religious freedom violations are on the rise, and many say that government inaction is largely to blame. U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson is aware of the heightened attacks. Prior to her appointment in 2015, she was a senior State Department official and was on record questioning Mexico about reports of widespread discrimination, violence and displacement.

International Christian Concern reports that evangelicals have faced starvation and threats of expulsion at the hands of village authorities, with the aim of forcing them to convert to Catholicism, particularly in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Hidalgo, and Puebla. Although Mexico’s Constitution is supposed to guarantee freedom of religion, federal authorities do little to protect religious minorities at the local level. These campaigns are carried out by local officials, maybe a mayor or a local town council, particularly in the south where most of the areas are self-governed. If the majority of a town is Catholic, those who are not Catholic can face prejudice, harassment, expulsion from their villages, attacks against their churches, imprisonment and murder.

In April, World Watch Monitor quoted International Christian Concern Judicial Affairs Director Isaac Seis as saying that:

“The workers in all levels of the Mexican government have looked away when dealing with attacks based upon religion that clearly violate Mexican law and international human rights … This incident is part of the generalized notion of religious intolerance that strangles the life of the rural communities in all of Mexico.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) obtained firsthand evidence of ongoing and systematic large-scale violations of religious freedom in Chiapas following a fact-finding assignment to the area in 2014. Its report cited cases where the local authorities proclaimed their village or municipality to be exclusive to one particular religion, prohibited the entry of members of other faiths, made participation in activities related to the ‘official’ religion compulsory and attempted to force inhabitants who practiced other faiths to convert to the declared ‘official’ religion.

Discrimination and persecution of religious minorities in Mexico has also been reported on by Open Doors-Mexico and Voice of the Martyrs-Mexico.

Let us not be complacent about this situation. Speak Freedom for all to practice their faith in Mexico.

Lou Ann Sabatier, Director of Communications

Take Action:

1. Read Open Doors’ Mexico Fact Sheet

2. Watch this documentary that chronicles Mexico’s battle for religious freedom in the early 1900s

3. Pray for believers whose families hinder them from practicing their faith.