Christians persecuted for not participating in religious festivals
MEXICO CITY, August 19(Compass Direct News) — “Traditionalist Catholic” leaders last month expelled 57 evangelical Christians from towns in two states for refusing to participate in their religious festivals.
Leaders of traditionalist Catholicism, a mixture of Roman Catholicism and native rituals, expelled 32 Christians from their homes in a village in Hidalgo state and another 25 from a town in Oaxaca; in each case, the evangelicals were deprived of their property for refusing to participate in drunken festivals that included worship of Catholic icons.
Hundreds of evangelical Christians from six states of Mexico organized a caravan on Aug. 10 on behalf of the 32 evangelicals from Los Parajes, near Huejutla in Hidalgo state, who were violently torn from their homes on July 13 when the town’s traditionalist Catholic leaders struck them with machetes and ropes. They were forced to leave behind 121 acres of land planted with crops, as well as their homes and animals.
The 32 Christians in Hidalgo state, north of Mexico City, say they have lost their entire crops of corn and sesame, and they are missing the season for planting jicama.
Cars and buses forming the caravan met at noon in the town of Tantoyuca, Hidalgo, proceeding together with police escort to Huejutla, where they left their vehicles and continued on foot toward the central plaza carrying the Mexican flag, a Christian flag, and placards with messages of love and support. Pastor Carlos Del Angel of Cerro Azul, Veracruz organized the protest, with the demonstrators also bringing food and clothing to the victims.
At press time Christian lawyer Samuel Noguera had still not been able to reach a solution with authorities. One of the expelled evangelical leaders, Enrique Garcia, told newspaper Milenio Hidalgo on Aug. 11 that local and state authorities should respect the rights of those who have been expelled.
“It seems to me impossible that once it has been proven that all of us evangelicals have fulfilled our obligations to the town, we should still be exiled,” Garcia reportedly said. “I understand that approximately 70 percent of the population of Los Parajes is open to our return.”
In February the Christians had reached an agreement with the community allowing them to choose to follow their own faith, but when Enedino Luna Cruz became town leader he burned the document, according to the evangelicals.
At first the expelled group, including two infants, four other small children, and several older adults, took refuge in two rooms of Benito Juarez School in nearby Huejutla, sleeping on the floor and going without food and water — and quashing plans for a 15th birthday celebration, a traditional Mexican quinceanera or “coming out” party, for Alejandra Dorotea Geronimo, according to local newspapers.
The Milenio Hidalgo newspaper reported on July 28 that townspeople in Los Parajes had offered to allow the Christians to return if they denied their faith and paid the equivalent of nearly $13,900 in “fines” for having refused to contribute to the traditionalist Catholic festivals, but they refused.
“We are being treated as though we were delinquents for being evangelicals,” one Christian leader, Roberto Hernandez, told Milenio Diario on July 21.
The men were prohibited from leaving the school to try to earn money for food and were forbidden to tend to their crops.
Milenio Hidalgolater reported that on August 4 the refugees were moved out of the school into a small house with three rooms, one bathroom, and no tables or beds. Due to lack of space, the men were unable to lie down to sleep at night. Following the Aug. 10 caravan, the Milenio Hidalgo reported that the group would be relocated to a larger house with five bedrooms and two baths.
Three years prior, town officials had cut off water and electricity service to the seven Christian families in the village for being unwilling to return to Catholicism. At that time the pastor of the group was beaten and tied up in a futile effort to force him to change his faith. Likewise, in the current case authorities told the Christians their expulsion could have been avoided if they had rejected their faith.
In the Yavelotzi community near San Jacinto, Oaxaca, 25 Christians were threatened and expelled from their homes for the same reasons on July 17, according to Christian support organization Open Doors.
The Netherlands-based organization said local authorities of Yavelotzi threatened to beat and kill a group of evangelical Christians on that day if they did not leave the community at once. The Christians had refused to participate in week-long parties characterized by drunkenness and worship of Catholic icons.
The 25 Christians left behind their homes, crops and communal rights — necessary for gaining access to government assistance — and were warned not to return unless they renounced their faith in Jesus Christ, according to Open Doors. They relocated to a nearby community called Rancho Tabla.
To prevent them from returning to their homes, Yavelotzi officials have taken away their land and have refused to allow their children to register for school, the organization said in a statement.
In nearby Arroyo Copete, according to Open Doors, traditionalist Catholic leaders have refused to allow the children of 10 Christian families to register for school, and are forcing the families to participate in the Catholic festivals. The officials assert that the evangelicals are not participating in the obligatory community service, but evangelicals say contributing to that service requires them to participate in “idol worship” as well.
In the Yavelotzi conflict, lawyers for both sides were to meet on July 25, but it was postponed at the last minute as the attorney for the Yavelotzi community was unable to attend.