08/15/2016 Washington, D.C.
(International Christian Concern
) – In an unprecedented visit this week, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein, is traveling to Mexico to investigate the state of religious freedom in the country. According to the State Department, his visit
will involve “[meeting] with government officials to discuss the importance of protecting religious freedom,”
and include visits to Mexico City and Hidalgo. The visit, a first for an IRF Ambassador, comes as advocacy groups, including International Christian Concern, have sought to draw attention to the forced expulsion and harassment of religious minorities in some parts of Mexico.
In early 2016, ICC estimated that at least 150 unresolved cases
of discrimination, violence, extrajudicial imprisonment, or forced expulsion involving a minority religious community existed in Chiapas, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Jalisco, Puebla and Guerrero. These numbers are believed to be on the low end, given that the majority of cases go unreported.
Ambassador Saperstein’s visit follows up on increased scrutiny for this issue from some members of Congress. Last year, Senator Marco Rubio questioned
Roberta Jacobson, then nominee for next US ambassador to Mexico and since confirmed in that position, on how she would address reports of attacks on religious communities. Later that year, Congressman Jeff Duncan, Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, held a hearing
entitled “Challenges to Religious Freedom in the Americas,” which also highlighted incidents in Mexico.
ICC’s Advocacy Director, Isaac Six, said, “We were incredibly pleased to hear that Ambassador Saperstein is taking time out of his busy schedule to investigate the environment for religious freedom in Mexico. For far too long the United States and the international community have been oblivious to the levels of harassment, discrimination, and violence afflicting Mexican communities as a result of religious division and hatred. Our sincere hope is that this visit signals a sustained effort by the United States to raise attention to this issue and provides a sorely needed wake-up call for Mexican officials. Too many children have been barred from school, too many families expelled from their homes, all because of the faith that they profess. The Mexican constitution clearly protects the right to full religious freedom, and so too should the government of Mexico.”