Recommendations to reduce the vulnerability of actively practicing Christians in Mexico

Based on our research findings about the persecution of actively practicing Christians by organized crime in Mexico, stabilization mechanisms can be developed to reduce their vulnerability to human security threats. This examination of stabilization mechanisms should be read as an exploration of possible avenues to reduce risk and increase resilience.

Reducing risks caused by external factors of vulnerability seems like an obvious place to start, especially because the position of religious minorities is to a large extent dependent upon the social and political context. In fact, these factors of vulnerability are the focus of many democracy assistance, development and human rights organizations. Issues such as state reform, corruption prevention, strengthening of the rule of law and human rights education are frequently mentioned in reports by organizations such as the International Crisis Group, Freedom House or Amnesty International. These efforts are essential to Mexican society as a whole. Naturally, this work is extremely difficult in the present context, but all contributions are valuable.

Whereas external factors of vulnerability are addressed in various ways, reducing the risks caused by internal factors of vulnerability is not really on the agenda of actively practicing Christians – there are no strategies devised by churches or Christian institutions to cope with the threats that they face. This is a missed opportunity because actively practicing Christians, if organized and united, can also contribute their knowledge to the policy questions surrounding the impunity and the corruption. Often, the focus of most Christian leaders is restricted to church related issues, leaving aside the potential contribution it could have to national debates on the major issues affecting society, including the pervasiveness of organized crime.

Our research revealed that visible gatherings of Christians in churches are directly putting them at risk. Congregation is essential within Christianity, but safer ways could be explored so that religious services attract less attention of criminal organizations, such as the organization of meetings in smaller groups, preferably in private homes in order to stay under the radar, instead of large and visible gatherings. Increased security checks at the entrance of churches might also be relevant. These measures will not solve the problems, but could reduce the vulnerability of this religious minority to some of the threats.

Reducing vulnerability to threats is a necessary stabilization mechanism, but must be accompanied by an increased focus on projects and processes that increase the resilience of actively practicing Christians, and will ultimately benefit society as a whole. The initiative taken by Christian religious leaders of Guadalupe, Monterrey (Nuevo León) in 2011, to address the corruption and infiltration of drug cartels in the police department, for example, is an example of how this religious minority can play a significant role and increase its resilience.

The Mexican government had already recognized the role church and religious institutions can play in promoting social capital in society: “Churches and religious associations can make an important contribution to rebuilding the social fabric by disseminating a culture of legality and reinforcing principles and values”, said Paulo Tort Ortega, the Director of the Religious Associations division of the interior ministry at the Seventh World Congress of the International Religious Liberty Association in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in 2012.

These forms of civic participation need, however, to be executed in such a way that they do not increase the vulnerability of actively practicing Christians, but instead contribute to an effective transformation of social structures in all spheres of society, increasing resilience.

Dennis P. Petri
Dennis P. Petri is Director of Plataforma C, Platform for Christian Politics. A political scientist by training, he specializes in comparative politics with a specific interest in Latin America. He is currently working on a dissertation about religious freedom at VU University Amsterdam.

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