Letter cites hundreds of victims in more than 150 cases of religious persecution in six states, calls for violators to be prosecuted
9/12/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – This morning, 13 members of Congress wrote to Mexican Attorney General Arely Gonzalez, calling for the prosecution of individuals guilty of religious freedom violations. The letter comes after months of efforts by human rights organizations, including International Christian Concern (ICC), to highlight discrimination and acts of violence targeting small Christian communities in rural areas of Mexico that directly conflict with Article 24 of Mexico’s Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.
“We were overjoyed to see so many members raise an issue that is almost completely unheard of outside of a small circle of religious freedom groups” said Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director. “It’s past time that officials in Mexico realize that they can’t continue to ignore blatant acts of discrimination and hostility without incurring a significant diplomatic cost.”
The letter, led by the Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, cites “more than 150 cases of religious persecution committed against primarily minority Protestant communities in recent years, each involving between five and 150 victims.” It goes on to say that “hundreds of men, women, and children have been expelled from their homes, while many face constant harassment due to their religious beliefs.” The letter also references the torching of a Protestant church in Chiapas in February and the killing of Catholic priests, blaming a “culture of impunity” for allowing these violations to persist.
Hostility towards minority religious groups in Mexico, especially towards new converts who leave syncretistic Catholicism (a blend of traditional Catholicism and indigenous beliefs), is not a new phenomenon. The Los Angeles Times reported on the issue as early as 1992, citing incidents of forced expulsion in Chiapas that had taken place decades earlier. Until recently, however, the issue had been raised only infrequently by officials and human rights groups in the United States.
Much of this changed in 2015 when Senator Marco Rubio questioned then nominee, now US ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson at a Senate confirmation hearing on how she would address the worsening situation. That questioning led to investigations by the State Department, and in July the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David N. Saperstein, visited the country for the first time.
Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said, “This is not an issue of Catholics versus Protestants; it is an issue of rule of law. No one should be illegally driven from their homes, jailed, or have their property confiscated because they profess a certain religious belief, regardless of what that belief is. Worse still, those who commit these violations should not be allowed to continue acting without any fear of prosecution. It is our sincere hope that this letter serves as a wake-up call for Mexico’s attorney general and leads swiftly to the application of justice. Until that happens, thousands of Christians in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla, and elsewhere will continue to live with the threat of persecution on a daily basis.”
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller at Comm.Coord@persecution.org
ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to serve persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Assistance, Advocacy, and Awareness to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441. To be removed from this press release list, hit reply and put “remove from PR list” in the subject line.