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Executive Summary

The constitution provides all persons the right to religious freedom, including the right to engage in religious ceremonies and acts of worship.  The constitution declares the country a secular state.  Under the constitution, indigenous communities enjoy a protected legal structure, allowing them some measure of self-governance to practice their own particular “uses and customs.”  The General Directorate for Religious Affairs (DGAR) within the Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB) continued to work with state and local officials on criminal investigations involving religious groups.  According to SEGOB, during the year, DGAR investigated five cases related to religious freedom at the state level (Morelos, Chiapas, Michoacan, and two in Guerrero) and one at the federal level, compared with four in 2020.  During the year, the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED) opened three religious discrimination cases, compared with none in 2020.  In June, the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN), the country’s highest court, ordered Jalisco State authorities to supervise the implementation of a 2020 ruling guaranteeing reintegration and protection for a group of indigenous Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tuxpan de Bolanos, Jalisco.  Government officials and leaders within the Roman Catholic Church continued to state the killings and attacks on Catholic priests and evangelical Protestant pastors reflected high levels of generalized violence throughout the country and not attacks based on religion.  According to media reports, in January, Catholic authorities representing members of the indigenous Tzotzil Mitzition community in San Cristobal, Chiapas detained an evangelical Protestant pastor, and community members destroyed five houses belonging to him and his family and expelled the pastor and his family from the community.  On July 25, indigenous authorities representing a Catholic community in Ahuacachahue, Guerrero imprisoned a non-Catholic family who, citing religious beliefs, refused to sell alcohol during a Catholic festivity.  DGAR registered 61 new religious associations during the year, compared with none in 2020.

During the year, there were three reported killings of priests and attacks on priests and pastors.  Additional threats against, and abductions of, priests and pastors continued.  The Catholic Multimedia Center (CMC) reported a spike in incidents across the Diocese of Cuernavaca, Morelos, involving extortion and assault.  Because religious leaders were often involved in politics and social activism and were thus more vulnerable to generalized violence, it was difficult to categorize many incidents of violence against religious leaders as targeted based solely on religious identity.  The CMC identified the country as the most violent country for priests in Latin America for the consecutive 13th year, reporting killings of more than two dozen priests over the past decade and emphasizing that the ranking reflected high levels of generalized violence in the country.  Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to say criminal groups singled out Catholic priests and other religious leaders because of their denunciation of criminal activities and because communities viewed them as moral authority figures.  According to media, on March 7 in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, demonstrators marched for International Women’s Day and vandalized church buildings, public structures, and businesses.  Also on March 7, a group of women’s rights protesters removed pews from the San Felipe Neri Church in Mexico City and attempted to set them on fire.  In September, The Yucatan Times reported threats and insults against Alejandro Rabinovich, president of the Jewish community in Merida, Yucatan.

U.S. embassy and consulate representatives at all levels met regularly with government officials responsible for religious and indigenous affairs at both the federal and state levels.  Embassy representatives at all levels regularly raised religious freedom and freedom of expression issues with foreign affairs and interior secretariat officials.  Embassy representatives met with members of religious groups and religiously affiliated NGOs, including the Central Jewish Committee, CMC, and CSW (formerly known as Christian Solidarity Worldwide), to discuss the safety of religious workers, focusing on humanitarian issues and expressing support for religious tolerance.  The embassy published several social media posts commemorating religious freedom, including U.S. condemnation of religious freedom violations, a celebration of interfaith unity, and a commemoration of victims persecuted for their religious beliefs.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future