“To follow Christ is beautiful. It doesn’t matter if we have to live in suffering, persecution and contempt from our village. Everyone in the family says that to live close to God is a blessing, and we delight in the salvation found only in Jesus Christ.”
(Morning Star News) – Miguel Pérez Díaz, his eight children and 87-year-old father have been living in a mountainside shack since May, when local officials expelled them from their village in Chiapas state, Mexico.
Relatives, friends and neighbors in Tajlovijho, a village in the municipality of San Andrés Larráinzar in southern Mexico, had been harassing them for leaving indigenous religious practices for Christianity, sources said.
“The first action they took against them was to cut their potable water service,” pastor Mario Choj told Morning Star News. “Then they made them leave the humble home they owned.”
Leaving the “traditionalist” blend of Roman Catholic and indigenous rituals and beliefs, the Pérez family put their faith in Christ four years ago and began a small fellowship in their home, said Pastor Choj, who leads an Assemblies of God Church called Jesús Es el Camino.
The family loaded the few belongings their neighbors allowed them to take and headed up the mountains to a village called Mitontic, where they survive by collecting the morning dew from a nylon sheet and rain water that falls from the metal roof of the shanty they built, the pastor said. They store the water in empty soda bottles and other containers.
Despite taking refuge far from their home, they are obligated to pay Tajlovijho officials 500 pesos (US$26) each month to keep authorities from taking possession of their house and remaining belongings, sources said.
Pastor Choj said Pérez told him the family is ready to suffer for Christ.
“To follow Christ is beautiful,” Pérez said, according to the pastor. “It doesn’t matter if we have to live in suffering, persecution and contempt from our village. Everyone in the family says that to live close to God is a blessing, and we delight in the salvation found only in Jesus Christ.”
Their case is one of thousands in which indigenous Mexican families that have been driven from their homes and lost all their belongings “only because they have accepted that Jesus is the only hope that we Mexicans have to be free of sin and eternal punishment,” Pastor Choj said.
The “traditionalist” religious mix practiced by the area’s predominantly ethnic Tzotzil, who are of Mayan origin, includes drunken festivals honoring pagan idols that evangelical Christians eschew. In a misuse of Mexico’s “Uses and Customs” law designed to protect indigenous culture, local caciques (political “bosses”) cite local regulations requiring villagers to contribute fees toward and participate in the festivals.
Christian attorneys note that this misuse of Mexico’s “Uses and Customs” laws violates the guarantee of religious freedom in Article 24 of Mexico’s constitution.
Similar cases of persecution have happened in Oaxaca, Durango and other states outside of Chiapas. In July residents of Huejutla, Hidalgo state, cut water service to two Christian families for refusing to participate in “Catholic festivals of the community,” according to online outlet Animal Político.
Denying any religious motive, officials with the Ministry of Interior blamed the two evangelical families “because they did not fulfill their duties” to villagers and did not “participate in their ‘uses and customs,’” the news cite reported.
In Chiapas, Pérez and his family, including wife Guadalupe Hernández and father Miguel Pérez Núñez, came to faith in Christ after reading an evangelistic pamphlet printed and distributed by Cruzada Mexican, a ministry also known as Every Home for Christ-México, Pastor Choj said. Volunteers leave the pamphlets, New Testaments and other Christian literature, some of them translated into indigenous languages, at area Protestant churches.
“The Pérez family previously lived happy and faithful, but they did not know what trials were coming to their peaceful life,” Pastor Choj said. “But they pray that more Christians would spread the Word of God, as many still need to know the love that is available only from Jesus Christ. They also pray for all the families expelled from their own houses and lands.”
Mexico ranks 39th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians experience the most persecution.
(Morning Star News) – A Christian in Chiapas state, Mexico was summarily jailed for three days the evening of Jan. 7 for refusing to deny his faith and contribute to Traditionalist Catholic festivals, according to an advocacy group.
Local authorities who practice the Traditionalist Catholic blend of indigenous pagan and Roman Catholic rituals also threatened Juan Gabriel Lopez Perez, 28, that he would not be released unless he sold his house and left the area within 20 days, the Coordination of Christian Organizations (COC) said in a statement. When Lopez Perez fell ill two days into his 72-hour sentence and was temporarily released to obtain medical care, his wife was obliged to serve the time in jail in his place, according to the organization.
Authorities in Rancheria El Encanto, Municipality of Las Margaritas, had given Lopez Perez the option of paying a 5,000-peso (US$240) fine or 72 hours in jail. After refusing to pay the fine, he was sent to jail at 7 p.m. for declining to sign a document denying his evangelical faith and agreeing to contribute to the Traditionalist Catholic festivals, which frequently involve drunkenness.
“On Jan. 9, the health condition of the prisoner were getting worse from the climatic conditions, so that in spite of requests for medical attention, it was not possible until night, when it was proposed that another person go to jail in his place, as a doctor had diagnosed the onset of bronchitis,” the COC statement read. “His wife, Eduvina Lopez Santiz, went into the jail at that time.” (more…)
(Agenzia Fides) – Diocesan priest José Luis Sánchez Ruiz, who had been kidnapped on Friday, November 11, was released yesterday with “obvious signs of torture”, according to a statement from the Diocese of San Andres Tuxtla (Veracruz, Mexico) signed by His Exc. Mgr. Fidencio Lopez Plaza.
In the statement, sent to Fides, the Bishop thanked the authorities for their interest and informs that the community awaits the conclusions of the prosecutor to clarify the facts. Mgr. Lopez Plaza also thanks for the “heartfelt sympathy and prayers of all the faithful, as well as the Mexican Episcopal Conference, and in particular the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Veracruz”.
According to the local press, Father Sánchez Ruiz, the parish priest of Los 12 Apóstoles Catemaco, in the days before the kidnapping had received threats, surely for his harsh criticism against corruption and crime in the town of Catemaco. Citizens had more than once expressed the lack of security and the arrogance of organized crime. Fides on several occasions reported that the Mexican states of Veracruz, Guerrero and Michoacán are the most violent regions even for priests. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 14/11/2016)
Poza Rica (Agenzia Fides) – In a statement the Mexican diocese of Papantla confirmed the violent death of two priests: Fr. Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Suárez de la Cruz. According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, a first report of the Office of the Attorney General of Veracruz state indicates that the two priests were kidnapped last Sunday evening, September 18, from the parish of Nuestra Senora de Fatima, in the extreme outskirts of the city of Poza Rica, in the northern part of the Veracruz state. Their lifeless bodies were found yesterday morning, Monday, September 19, at the side of the road that connects Papantla to Poza Rica. A collaborator of the priests, who worked as a sacristan and driver, was also kidnapped, and fortunately was found alive. The area was the scene of violent clashes between drug cartels for years, but it is still not clear why the two priests were killed.
“We are dismayed by this news and we pray for their eternal rest – writes Mgr. José Trinidad Zapata Ortiz, Bishop of Papantla, in the statement for the tragic death of the two priests -. Once more we see that violence and insecurity have taken root in our society”. The Bishop hopes that the loss of the two priests will help bring long-awaited peace and priestly vocations to continue the evangelizing mission of the Church. “We condemn all forms of violence and pray for the conversion of those who forget that we are brothers and cause suffering and death – writes Mgr. Zapata Ortiz -. The path of violence and crime generates even more violence. God does not want death, neither violence nor injustice. God wants life, God wants everyone to live in justice, dignity and peace”. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 20/09/2016)
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling on the Mexican government to prosecute local officials responsible for the unjust imprisonment and torture of four protestant Christians from 5-8 November in the western state of Oaxaca.
Reverend Leopoldo Alonso, leader of the Independent Pentecostal Christian Church in San Juan Ozolotepec, and three members of his church, Manuel Martínez Silva, Miguel Silva Reyes and Plácido Aragón, were imprisoned on 5 November on the orders of the municipal president, who had ordered the destruction of the Pentecostal church on 4 November.
The four men were freed on 8 November after government officials, accompanied by state police, travelled to the municipality to intervene. Voice of the Persecuted viewed photos of the men who were admitted to the local hospital that clearly showed signs that they had been severely beaten.
Threats against the Protestants were first reported in May when church members made a public declaration calling for state government intervention in reaction to threats from the municipal president, Pedro Cruz González. The church members said that Cruz González had threatened to burn them and throw their bodies into a canyon if they did not renounce their faith. When government officials failed to respond, the situation escalated. In July, a member of the church, Vicente Aragon Hernandez, was imprisoned by Cruz Gonzalez. Municipal leaders indicated that this was punishment for speaking out publicly about the situation in San Juan Ozolotepec. In the face of continued inaction on the part of the state government, the situation took a violent turn when Cruz Gonzalez made a public order to ‘demolish the temple, lynch, imprison and torture’ the members of the Pentecostal church.
The National Commission for Human Rights has opened a complaint into the San Juan Ozolotepec case and issued a statement indicating that cases of religious intolerance are on the rise in Mexico, particularly in rural areas and regions with a significant indigenous population.
Dr Jorge Lee Galindo, an expert on freedom of religion and conscience in Mexico who is currently hosting a CSW delegation there, told CSW that incidents of religious intolerance continue to occur in parts of Mexico, in part because of a culture of impunity. “The government, on the occasions when it decides to act, often intervenes only to calm the situation, but rarely takes legal action against those responsible for these violations. Local authorities see that there are no real consequences for acts of violence and exclusion targeting religious minorities and these cases escalate and spread.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “It is imperative that the Mexican government take swift legal action against those responsible for this horrific crime. If the state government is unable or unwilling to uphold the law, the federal government must intervene. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Mexican Constitution and enshrined in international law to which Mexico is party; it is past time for all of Mexico’s citizens to enjoy the fundamental right to choose and practice their own faith.”