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 legally recognizing churches, religious denominations, religious federations and confederations, and associations of religious ministers, among other responsibilities. Christian groups said laws granting indigenous groups legal autonomy, including the right to prevent proselytization on indigenous reserves, led to discrimination as well as arrests, forced displacement, and forced conversion. In May Christian groups held protests and public prayers outside of Cartagena City Hall following a ban on prayer at the start of public government activities. The Mennonite Association for Justice, Peace and Nonviolent Action (Justapaz), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that monitors human rights and religious freedom regardless of religious affiliation, reported an increase in requests for conscientious objector status. Justapaz said the military had been increasingly responsive in creating internal committees to respond to these requests, but had not been able to do so within the mandated 15 days.

NGOs reported that in some areas of the country, illegal armed groups threatened leaders and members of religious organizations and such actions disrupted the activities of religious groups working on behalf of vulnerable populations. A Christian group stated that the killing of a pastor by an illegal armed group suggested the act was religiously motivated as it took place inside his church.

The Attorney General’s Office reported no confirmed religiously motivated killings, compared to six the previous year. The Jewish community reported continued comments promoting anti-Semitism on some social media sites. During the year, religious groups conducted a range of programs focused on religious tolerance, indigenous land rights, peace, and reconciliation, particularly with former guerilla combatants.

U.S. embassy officials discussed issues of religious freedom, including conscientious objection to military service and the effect of illegal armed actors on religious practice, with the government and civil society. In July the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism met with Jewish leaders and religious group representatives in Bogota to discuss their concerns about anti-Semitism and the Jewish community’s relationship with other religious communities. U.S. embassy officials met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Office, and the MOI, as well as with representatives from a wide range of religious groups, including the Jewish community, Catholics, evangelicals, Baptists, and Mennonites, to discuss issues related to eliminating institutionalized discrimination and promoting freedom of religion and of association, conscientious objection, peace, and tolerance.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future