Mexico is back on the World Watch List in 2021, a yearly index of the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.
The World Watch List, published by the Christian aid organization Open Doors every year since 1992, placed Mexico at number 37 on this year’s list following a year in which Mexico was absent from the report. Even though Christianity is the majority religion in Mexico, Christians are targeted for persecution when their faith threatens powerful institutions, the Watch List said.
The List said that the principal driver behind Mexico’s Christian persecution is “organized corruption and crime,” noting that while there are two main drug cartels in Mexico, there are also at least 17 criminal groups that have a significant presence there.
“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,” the report states. “In indigenous communities, anyone who decides to abandon the community’s religious beliefs or syncretistic practices often faces rejection and punishment.”
“Finally, there has been an increase in violent and discriminatory acts against Christians by people who believe Christians are bigoted,” the report declares.
Open Doors has noted that in Mexico, there is a long history of organized corruption and Christians who take their faith seriously are seen as a threat to criminal networks, resulting in the kidnapping and murders of priests and nuns, often because they denounced criminal activity or refused to perform services for drug cartels.
In point of fact, hostility toward Christians in Mexico is nothing new and the nation has a long history of violent repression of the Church by ruling Freemasons. After Mexico’s Revolution of Ayutla (1854-1855), nearly all of the key figures in the government were Freemasons and fiercely anticlerical, typified by President Benito Juárez, who adopted a Constitution in 1857 that attacked the property rights and possessions of the Church.
As Mexico’s former President Vicente Fox stated in a 2007 book, after 1917, “Mexico was led by anti-Catholic Freemasons who tried to evoke the anticlerical spirit of popular, indigenous President Benito Juarez of the 1880s.”
“But the military dictators of the 1920s were a lot more savage than Juarez,” Fox adds, noting how priests were executed in cold blood for trying to perform the sacraments, altars were desecrated by soldiers, and freedom of religion outlawed by generals.
Mexico’s notorious 1917 Constitution of Querétaro was openly hostile to the Church and religion and promoted an anti-clericalism similar to that seen in France during the Revolution. The Constitution outlawed Church-run education, gave the state control over Church matters, and put all Church property at the state’s disposal.
Under the Constitution, religious orders and foreign-born priests were outlawed, states had the power to limit or eliminate priests in their territory, priests had no right to vote or hold office, clergy were prohibited from religious celebrations and from wearing clerical garb outside of a church, and citizens charged with violating these provisions were denied the right to a trial.
It was the strict enforcement of the Constitution by President Plutarco Calles in the 1920s that led to the Cristero War, the largest armed rebellion in Mexican history.
Remarkably, the severe anti-Christian provisions of the Mexican Constitution remained in force until 1992, when they were largely repealed by the administration of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.