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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST NO. 37

MEXICO

Country rank

37

Persecution score

64.42

Last year’s rank

52

Region

Latin America

Persecution Type

Clan oppression (Strong), Organized corruption and crime (Strong), Secular intolerance (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

133,870,000

Christians

128,229,000 (95.8%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Christianity

Government

Federal presidential republic

Leader

President Andres Manuel López Obrador

 

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the Persecuted Church in Mexico through:
• Training
• Socio-economic development
• Advocacy

ABOUT MEXICO

What does persecution look like in Mexico?

The increasing presence of criminal groups and their struggle for territorial control create an environment where Christians—and particularly Christian leaders—face the constant risk of being targeted for violence. Christians are perceived as a threat to criminal activities because they oppose corruption and drug use, or because they explicitly reject any demands or requests of criminal organizations. Christians who are outspoken about the hope of Jesus in the face of drug trafficking and violence are often targeted by gangs to remove any obstacle in their quest for control.  

In indigenous communities, anyone who decides to abandon the community’s religious beliefs or syncretistic practices often faces rejection and punishment in the form of fines, incarceration or forced displacement.  

Finally, there has been an increase in violent and discriminatory acts against Christians by people who believe Christians are bigoted, xenophobic or opposed to women’s rights. Churches have been attacked and graffitied by protestors, and reports on the ground suggest openness to Christian ethics in the public sphere is decreasing, even though Mexico is supposed to value pluralism. 

How women experience persecution

In indigenous communities, forced marriage is still a cultural tradition, despite government efforts to eradicate it. Christian women are forced to marry non-Christian indigenous men because tribal authorities see this as a way to break their faith and force them to renounce it. Verbal and physical abuse (including sexual violence) is used to pressure them into following the tribal religion. 

In areas controlled by drug traffickers, members of criminal networks expose women to abuse. They are recruited as hired assassins or are forced to engage in relationships with cartel members. In the case of Christian families, the fact that women are forced to maintain a relationship with members of criminal groups leads to an inevitable threatening of their Christian faith and the faith of their family. In many cases, this dynamic leads to their separation and breakdown. The families of women who convert to Christianity and desert criminal groups often face rape, death threats and constant surveillance as punishment. 

How men experience persecution

While no law makes Christian men and boys in Mexico more vulnerable to persecution, in the areas controlled by criminal groups or drug cartels, young men are exposed to indoctrination and forced recruitment. Because of their economic and social circumstances, some young men accept this; those who don’t—whether for reasons of Christian faith or otherwise—are threatened, abducted or even killed. Sometimes, criminal organizations bribe or intimidate families to force their children to obey.  

Men in Mexico generally face more threats than women and a higher level of persecution since they are often the heads of families and leaders of churches. Fathers are often the first to be threatened to intimidate the family. When armed criminal groups wish to stop churches or to limit their activities, the threats are often aimed first at the pastor of the church. 

If an indigenous Christian is also considered to be a religious leader, their role increases the levels of harassment, rejection and sanctions which the community will apply to him and his family. These actions are aimed at discouraging others from becoming interested in Christianity and converting. 

What has changed this year?

Mexico shot up the 2021 World Watch List after being outside of the top 50 entirely last year. This is likely due to the rise in illegal activity that directly challenges Christians and Christian teaching. Drug traffickers and gangs retaliate against and target Christian leaders for opposing their criminal activities, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, their control over parts of Mexico has strengthened. Similarly, indigenous communities that oppose Christian converts have strengthened their autonomy during the coronavirus crisis, leading to increased difficulty for these followers of Jesus. And finally, Mexican society seems to be increasing its commitment to secularism instead of pluralism. Often, Christian viewpoints are not welcome in the public sphere.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Criminal networks have spread throughout Mexico. Although there are still two main cartels in Mexico, there are others—at least 17 criminal groups—that have a significant presence in the country. That doesn’t include the new or fragmented groups, who also persecute Christians because they perceive Christians as threats to their group’s interests.  

Persecution against Christians inside indigenous communities occurs particularly in the southern part of the country. And the rejection of Christian viewpoints in the public square is increasingly an issue throughout Mexico.  

How can I help Christians in Mexico

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Mexico?

The ministry of Open Doors in Mexico works to bring structural change to the persecution situation in Mexico by helping to provide solutions to the spiritual and material needs of persecuted believers. Open Doors also engages and equips the Mexican church to reach out directly to those suffering persecution.

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Mexico, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for Christian leaders who risk so much to serve their church communities in places where they are the targets of organized criminals. Ask God to spare them from violence and to care for their entire family and church in dealing with the violence and trauma. 

-Pray for Christians who convert out of their community’s belief system. Pray for a softening of hearts among local leaders, and that Christians would be safe and able to be a light for Christ’s hope in the middle of a dark situation. 

-Pray for Christians struggling to see how they fit into Mexican society. Ask God to give them compassion and courage, as they risk their lives and livelihood to walk in faith. 

 

A PRAYER FOR MEXICO 

Lord God, we come to You on behalf of our sisters and brothers in Mexico. God, there are so many people who claim Your name in Mexico, and yet, we see a profound level of suffering in that country. God, please help Christians to see and love one another, and protect Christian leaders who are risking so much to speak out for Your hope and love. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.