The constitution provides for freedom of conscience and worship. The law prohibits religious discrimination. Religion and state are officially separate. The National Office of Religious Affairs (ONAR), an executive government agency, is charged with facilitating communication between faith communities and the government and ensuring the rights of religious minorities are protected. Catholic and Episcopalian leaders condemned the Constitutional Court’s August decision to partially lift the country’s total ban on abortions, stating that permitting abortions was unconstitutional and violated their religious beliefs. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported arsonists burned down eight churches in the Araucania Region between January and October, following more than 10 similar incidents the previous year. No one was hurt in the attacks. The regional government announced in April it would help to reconstruct the destroyed churches. In August after ONAR’s intervention, representatives of the Catholic and Protestant faiths signed an agreement with the Chilean Timber Association (CORMA) under which CORMA provided materials to rebuild the churches. In June ONAR published the first edition of an ethics code to facilitate a dialogue of mutual understanding among the country’s religious communities, public and private entities, labor leaders, and civil society. With the stated goal of facilitating civil society input, ONAR continued to meet regularly with its Interfaith Advisory Council to facilitate interreligious dialogue between religious and government leaders, including holding meetings with indigenous groups, religious minorities, and civil society leaders.
A June soccer game in Santiago between Club Israeliti, a Chilean-Jewish team, and Club Palestino, a Chilean-Palestinian team, ended in physical violence. Jewish community leaders filed a complaint with the public prosecutor over anti-Semitic chants by Club Palestino fans. Chilean-Palestinian leaders complained to authorities the entrance to their community’s soccer field was marked with graffiti of the Star of David and the words “Palestine doesn’t exist, Arabs are terrorists.” The Jewish community also expressed concern about anti-Semitic flyers distributed at university campuses.
The U.S. Ambassador and embassy representatives periodically met with government officials and religious leaders to discuss religious diversity and tolerance and to raise incidents of concern, including church burnings and the conflict at the Israeliti-Palestino game. In June a senior embassy official hosted leaders of various religious communities at an interfaith iftar designed to emphasize religious tolerance and promote interfaith dialogue. In August a senior embassy official participated in an interreligious dialogue between government officials and faith leaders.