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ICC Note: Though Latin America is widely known as being a region with one of the greatest populations of Christians, life is gradually becoming more difficult for those who claim Christianity. After a three-year hiatus, Mexico has rejoined Colombia on Open Doors’ World Watch List with three other countries just past the threshold of the top 50. Organized corruption and tribal antagonism have been the main forces credited for the rise in persecution in the region.

By Dennis Pastoor

02/09/2015 Colombia (World Watch Monitor) – About one-quarter of the world’s Christians live in Latin America and, apart from in Colombia, most have enjoyed wide freedom to live out their faith. Christian life in Latin America is getting a bit more difficult, however, according to Open Doors International, creator of the World Watch List.

The annual list ranks the 50 countries where life as a Christian is currently most difficult. After a three-year absence, Mexico is on the list again, joining Colombia. Three more countries —Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia — are among a handful of “persecution watch” countries just outside the top 50.

Dennis Pastoor, Latin America analyst for the World Watch List team, tackles six questions about the church under pressure in Latin America.

1. What does this pressure look like?

In a word: complex, due to the social exclusion experienced by most people, combined with generally weak security. Christians, seen by criminal organizations as a threat, are especially affected by violence.

There are two main ‘engines’ of persecution:

Organized corruption: underperforming governments, lack of rule of law, endemic corruption and criminal organizations operating with impunity. Colombia, Mexico and Central America.

Tribal antagonism: Traditional religions, a mix of indigenous paganism and popular Catholicism, are reviving, especially in isolated areas. Indigenous converts to Christianity face all sorts of harassment, exclusion from basic social services, torture and even expulsion. Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Bolivia.

Three other, less powerful, ‘engines’ are at work:

Communist oppression: still very present, in different forms. Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

Secular intolerance, aided by the erosion of understanding about the role religion, personal and organized, plays in public life. This is a growing issue. All of Latin America

Ecclesiastical arrogance: The legal status of Protestant churches still remains an issue in some countries in the region, though the trend is abating.

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