IACHR Holds First-Ever Hearing on Religious Freedom in Latin America

San Jose, Costa Rica (October 29, 2022) – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights holds its first-ever hearing on religious freedom in Latin America. Human rights experts draw attention to the crisis of religious freedom plaguing the region.

“Latin America is currently facing a wave of human rights violations in the area of ​​religious freedom. What we are seeing is an indication of an alarming disregard for this fundamental human right, with grave consequences not only for people of faith, but also for the future of democracy in the region as a whole,” said Tomás Henriquez, ADF International’s Director of Advocacy for Latin America, addressed to the Commission.

Henriquez demanded that the Commission take action against gross violations of religious freedom in Nicaragua, Mexico and Argentina, among other Latin American countries.

Nicaragua

At the beginning of this year, the government of Ortega expelled the Missionaries of Charity of St. Teresa of Calcutta and the Religious of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus without due process. The regime has harassed and forced more than a dozen Catholic priests into exile. Many others have been detained, including the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez (under house arrest) and Fr. Oscar Benavidez, Rev. Ramiro Tijerino, Fr. Jose Luis Diaz, Fr. Sadiel Eugarrios and Fr. Raúl González, diocesan priests, as well as seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melquín Sequeira, along with cameraman Sergio Cárdenas.

Henriquez, an expert on human rights violations in Latin America, spoke out against the systematic political repression and overt religious persecution of the people of Nicaragua.

Speaking about the hearing on religious freedom, Henriquez said: “Commissioners, we are faced with the unfortunate coincidence that this hearing is taking place at the same time as the region is powerless to witness one of the worst religious persecutions in living memory since the system was put in place. to exist. I refer, of course, to the very serious and urgent situation experienced by the Nicaraguan people, including in particular the Catholic Church and its bishops, priests, seminarians, laity and religious brothers and sisters.”

In addition, the government is responsible for the closure of the Catholic Church’s social services in the Diocese of Estelí, and the forced closure and expropriation of the Universidad Católica Agropecuaria del Trópico Seco and the 13 parochial schools of the Diocese of Estelí – all of which have a multidimensional impact. enjoy the right to religious freedom of students, parents and members of the Church.

Henriquez called on the Commission to take urgent action against religious persecution against the Catholic Church of Nicaragua, and called for the immediate release of all clergy detained by the Ortega regime for the protection of their lives and physical and psychological integrity.

Mexico

There are also blatant violations of religious freedom in Mexico, where it is illegal for clergy to speak about political issues due to regulations dating back to 1917. In early 2022, four priests (Juan Sandoval, Mario Angel Flores, Carlos Aguiar and Angel Espinosa de los Monteros) were found guilty of violating Article 130 of the Mexican Constitution for making statements expressing their views on socio-political events in their country and urging believers to vote according to their beliefs. The priests were charged by the ruling political party, tried in an electoral court and found guilty of the “crime” of politically oriented expressions.

Speaking about the situation in Mexico, Henriquez said that the silencing of religious leaders “not only violates freedom of religion and expression, but is discriminatory as it affects a certain category of people because of their religion.” Henriquez noted that the issue is not limited to Mexico and stated that: “The Commission should take concrete action to demand the repeal of laws prohibiting the freedom of expression of ministers of religion in the constitutions of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica.” cool down.”

Henriquez and ADF International continue to intervene and monitor violations of religious freedoms in Latin America.

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