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ICC Note: Legal experts from throughout Latin America gathered yesterday for the beginning of a three-day conference on various religious freedom issues. Representatives from Mexico, Honduras, Chile, Peru and Colombia will be participating in the event which is taking place in El Salvador. Organized violence, civil wars and oppressive governments are just a few of the factors that have led to an increase in violence against religious minorities in Latin America in recent years.

09/03/2015 El Salvador (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) – Latin American legal experts will discuss the impact of violence on human rights in the region, including religious freedom, at a landmark conference starting today in San Salvador. The event has been organised by the Inter-American Federation of Christian Jurists and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

The three-day conference will comprise various panels exploring the impact of different forms of violence on religious freedom; restorative justice; and will compare experiences of national truth and reconciliation processes, and share best practice norms for civil society organisations working in a violent context. Experts from Colombia, Peru, Chile, Mexico and Honduras will be taking part. An additional workshop on international religious freedom protections will be given by Dr Jorge Lee Galindo from the Mexican religious freedom organisation Impulso 18.

For decades, countries in the region have suffered the effects of violence ranging from that associated with dictatorships, internal conflicts and civil wars to the more recent phenomenon of organized criminal violence on a massive scale. The host country, El Salvador, has been particularly affected by the wave of criminal violence and in August, the government designated street gangs as terrorist groups.

All of the types of violence to be addressed in the conference have a direct impact on civil society, including religious groups. The number of religious leaders murdered by criminal groups in Mexico rose sharply in the past two years and is mirrored by similar attacks in Colombia and Central America. Internal conflicts, like that in Colombia, also affect religious freedom as leftist guerrilla groups limit or prohibit religious activities in areas under their control and the military regularly violates the right to conscientious objection.

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