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Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the right to profess one’s religious beliefs.  It prohibits discrimination based on religion.  The Ministry of Interior (MOI) is responsible for formally recognizing churches, religious denominations, religious federations and confederations, and associations of religious ministers, among other responsibilities.  In March the MOI introduced a new policy, titled “Comprehensive Public Policy of Religious Freedom and Worship,” establishing a Religious Freedom Directorate in the MOI and providing technical assistance to corresponding entities at the regional level.  The MOI started developing protective tools for religious groups as part of its ongoing implementation of the new public policy.  The Mennonite Association for Justice, Peace, and Nonviolent Action (Justapaz) expressed continued concern over a law requiring interagency commissions to evaluate requests for conscientious objector status.  The minister of interior and the high commissioner for peace launched an interagency working group in April on the role of religious organizations in the peace and reconciliation process to strengthen respect for religious diversity.  The Episcopal Catholic Conference of Colombia (ECC) expressed concern about new requirements for tax-exempt status implemented during the year, which the ECC said limited the ability of religious nonprofit organizations to deliver social services in their communities.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to report that guerillas and organized illegal armed groups threatened leaders and members of religious organizations in many areas of the country.

The ECC stated that on March 10, unidentified individuals tortured and killed 68-year-old Father Dagoberto Noguera Avendano in Santa Marta.  Justapaz reported that an unidentified illegal armed group threatened the organization via a pamphlet issued on July 14, due to its efforts to promote human rights and reconciliation.  Justapaz reported the threat to the Attorney General’s Office and the MOI.  The Jewish community reported continued comments promoting anti-Semitism on some social media sites, including aggressive actions by Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Colombia, an anti-Israel protest movement that used anti-Semitic slogans such as “Jews control the media.”  During the year, the Catholic Church, Mennonite Church, and other religious groups continued to conduct programs focused on religious tolerance, land rights, peace, and reconciliation.

U.S. embassy officials raised issues of religious freedom, including conscientious objection to military service and the effect of illegal armed actors on religious practice, with government officials.  Embassy officials met with the Human Rights Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the International Affairs Directorate of the Attorney General’s Office, and the Religious Affairs Directorate of the MOI.  Embassy officials discussed with the MOI the new public policy on religious freedom and worship, including support for victims of conflict and other vulnerable populations at the national and local levels.  Embassy officials also met with representatives from a wide range of religious groups, including the Jewish and Muslim communities, Catholics, evangelical Protestants, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Presbyterians, and Mennonites.  In these meetings, embassy officials discussed issues related to the government’s new policy on religious freedom, conscientious objection, and the importance of eliminating institutionalized discrimination.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future