Open Doors has released a report on organised crime and corruption in Latin America and its impact on Christians living there.
The report states that organized crime and networks of corruption are two of the most serious threats to social and political life in Mexico and Colombia. Because Christians stand against this lifestyle they are seen as a threat and are vulnerable to attacks.
According to the report the concept of religious freedom has been largely ignored by Latin American governments. Christians are not recognised as a vulnerable group and are treated as “second-class citizens” particularly when trying to bring criminal charges against their attackers. Due to corruption, prosecution of criminal groups is virtually impossible.
The report identifies Christian leaders as the most vulnerable people as their message of peace and justice is seen as a threat to criminal group’s activities while Christians who work to eradicate violence and injustice are also targeted with threats and violence. Even social initiatives such as rehabilitation centres for drug addicts are perceived as a menace if they interfere directly or indirectly with these criminal organizations.
Non-Catholic Christians suffer particularly high levels of victimization as members of criminal groups often hold back from attacking adherents to their own family’s faith, usually Roman Catholicism.
The report also points to forced payment of protection money being the most frequent form of religious persecution against Christians. Protection money is often demanded by criminals groups in exchange for the right to continue carrying out religious activities in a specific place. If the Christians refuse, they or their relatives may be victims of extortion or physical violence. This is one of the most serious violations of their right to religious freedom.
Persecution incidents are hardly ever registered due to corrupt officials supporting criminal groups – where a complaint or accusation is possible, the authorities simply ignore it or make it look ridiculous.
Mexico is number 39 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian and Colombia is number 49.