By BosNewsLife Americas Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (BosNewsLife)– At least 70 evangelical Christians in Mexico’s east-central region were homeless Saturday, September 17, after being expelled by local authorities from their village where traditional Catholics reportedly threatened to “crucify or lynch” them.
The government of Puebla state “bowed” to pressure from the traditional Catholics in San Rafael Tlanalapan village, some 96 kilometers (60 miles) from the capital Mexico City, reported Mexico’s leading La Jornada de Oriente newspaper.
Initially about 50 Protestant families were ordered to leave the village by September 12, because they allegedly tried to evangelize and convert traditional Catholics to evangelical Christianity. But some were allowed to stay under condition they would worship outside the area. Additionally they are not allowed to intervene with traditional Catholics, who practice a mix of indigenous and Catholic rituals.
“There is an agreement reached with the local authority that those evangelicals have to go who are not originating from the area as the state government can not guarantee their safety,” La Jornada de Oriente quoted regional government official Roberto Solano Pineda as saying.
PICKING UP BELONGINGS
Witnesses earlier said they saw several evangelicals, including a pastor, arriving with suitcases to quickly pick up their belongings. Traditional Catholics told them they would be “crucified or lynched” if they dared to stay after the September 12 ultimatum, locals and reporters said.
The mayor did not stop the expulsions amid fears he could be expelled himself by Catholics, Mexican media reported.
Catholic Irma Diaz Perez told local television he was pleased as “They will never return, because we have drawn up a document wherein they have no permission to come back now or ever.”
A few residents who agreed to discuss the issue with reporters said they regretted that authorities did not pressure local priest, identified as Benítez González, to halt the expulsions.
YEARS OF TENSIONS
Tensions date back to 2006 when local Catholics reportedly refused to connect evangelical residents to a water network. Officials also reported attacks against evangelical families in previous years.
Evangelical Pastor Josué Jiménez Ovando said he had provided videos of the attacks to authorities, but the local Catholic church has denied wrongdoing.
There have been several attacks against evangelicals in Mexico, a heavily traditional Catholic nation, and some were held for crimes they did not commit.
In 2009 twenty men, most of them evangelical Christians, were freed after spending more than a decade in prison after Mexico’s Supreme Court overturned their sentences in a massacre in southern Chiapas state.
Mexico’s top court ruled that prosecutors used illegally obtained evidence to charge the men with involvement in killing 45 Indian villagers, including children as young as two months old, on December 22, 1997, in the hamlet of Acteal.