The Interface of Churches and Organized Crime in Latin America

Structural violence – in its diverse forms – has become one of the main concerns for Latin American citizens and their governments. Its effects are clearly visible in a number of Latin American countries, corrupting government institutions and distorting the overall functioning of society by creating a culture of fear and impunity.

Faced with the growing influence of organized crime in society, churches should not remain silent. The Gospel teaches the pursuit of public justice and the transformation of society by the working of the love of Christ as leading principles for the social involvement of Jesus’ disciples. This worldview radically contradicts the logics and dynamics of organized crime.

Yet, the actual response and attitude of church leaders and their members to organized crime has only scarcely been investigated. Christians committed to truth and justice should be critical about organized crime. Are organized crime groups interested in neutralizing the transforming power of the Gospel or not? Do they consider churches as a threat to their activity? How does organized crime operate in relation to churches?

When organized crime targets churches – and Christians in general – persecution takes many forms. At a global level, two main categories of persecution perpetrated by criminal organizations can be identified. Direct persecution (a) concerns evident forms of persecution such as torture or assassination. Indirect persecution concerns more subtle, less visible, forms of persecution, through strategies such as the (b) infiltration of political institutions, (c) infiltration of social and cultural institutions and (d) spiritual warfare.

Persecution of Christians by especially criminal organizations is generally motivated by a combination of two elements. The primary reason for persecution is that organized crime sees Christians as a threat when they openly oppose their activities, especially when they get involved in social programs or in politics. The second reason, that often inspires the first one, is that they view that Christian faith is not compatible with their ideals, and that they fear Christians will influence members of the community or even members of their own organizations to oppose their activities.

Read the full report here: Interface of Churches and Organised Crime in Latin America.

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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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