by Tanner Bean
The Latin America: Government Officials breakout session held on Monday, October 3, 2016 was moderated by Gary Doxey of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. It included panelists Jorge Tapia Sainz, Oscar Ramirez Aguilar, and Alfredo Miguel Abriani.
Alfredo Miguel Abriani is the National Undersecretary for Worship, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Argentina. He focused his remarks on the unique circumstances of religious liberty in Argentina. Abriani stated that generally, religious liberties thrive in Argentina, although there is always room for improvement. Specifically, Abriani spoke of the guarantees of religious freedom in Argentina through the Constitution of Argentina, through antidiscrimination laws, and is pushing with others for a specific religious liberty law. Abriani also detailed other programs instituted in the areas of tourism, immigration, social networking, and youth work. Overall, Abriani hopes these efforts will increase tolerance, human dignity, and interfaith cooperation and solidify religious liberty in Argentina.
Oscar Ramirez Aguilar is the President of the Board of the State Congress in Chiapas, Mexico. His remarks pertained to the difficulties religious conflict poses to religious liberty in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. He stated that the state’s demography has changed greatly, from mostly Catholic to a very pluralistic religious composition. This change, he asserted, triggered violent outbursts as religious customs were infringed upon. These problems have been so strong that many residents of Chiapas have left the state. But Aguilar stated the efforts taken to quell the conflict. Among others, Aguilar says that inter-religious workshops, tolerance education in public school, and inter-religious councils of religious leaders are going a long way to solve the problem.
Jorge Ramiro Tapia Sainz is a medical surgeon that currently represents the nation of Bolivia as consulate general in Argentina. He spoke about the geological, demographic, and political diversity in Bolivia that has led to difficulties with religion. However, Sainz spoke, with excitement, about the 2009 Bolivian Constitution that changed Bolivia into a secular state. Sainz explained how the new state remains neutral in matters of religion, which has allowed religious organization to proceed without opposition or support of the State. He said this change has sparked various new programs to increase civility, tolerance, and religious liberty throughout Bolivia.