“Challenges to religious freedom in the Americas” – Testimony before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Freedom of religion has many components. The UN Human Rights Committee in its General Comment 22 says freedom of religion, as provided under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is “far-reaching and profound.” According to the Committee, the right “encompasses freedom of thought on all matters, personal conviction and the commitment to religion or belief, whether manifested individually or in community with others.” The Committee also underlines the importance of freedom of religion by stating “this provision cannot be derogated from, even in time of public emergency.” The Committee further underscores “there are no limitations whatsoever on the freedom of thought and conscience or on the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice.”

The freedom to manifest religion or belief in worship, with all the supporting  practices and teachings, encompasses a broad range of activities, as stated by the Committee: “the practice and teaching of religion or belief includes acts integral to the conduct by religious groups of their basic affairs, such as the freedom to choose their religious leaders, priests and teachers, the freedom to establish seminaries or religious schools and the freedom to prepare and distribute religious texts or publications.”

It is clear that the above standard is not met in many parts of Latin America for a variety of reasons. There is demonstrable evidence that Christians are vulnerable for suffering human rights abuses:

  • Organized crime is posing a threat to freedom of religion and expression in the Americas;
  • In indigenous areas, converts to Christianity are threatened by tribal leaders and they are not given sufficient protection by their governments;
  • In communist and post-communist countries, Christians are denied the freedom to exercise their right to worship as well as freedom of expression.
  • Latin American states are not always diligent enough in terms of investigating issues related to violations of freedom of religion and expression.

Download the full testimony here.

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The Observatory of Religious Freedom in Latin America is a program of the Foundation Platform for Social Transformation, a registered charity in Voorburg, The Netherlands under Chamber of Commerce #50264249.

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