Date: January 29, 2016
By BosNewsLife Americas Service
MEXICO CITY (BosNewsLife)-- Twenty Protestant families have been forcibly displaced from their homes in western Mexico because of their faith after the government refused to prevent the deportations, an advocacy official told BosNewsLife Friday, January 29.
“We are deeply concerned that despite almost eight weeks’ warning, and the knowledge of explicit threats of violence and forced displacement, both State and Federal governments failed to take action to protect the religious minority in [the town of] Tuxpan de Bolaños" in the Bolaños municipality of Jalisco state, said Mervin Thomas, chief executive of rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Some 50 individuals, including children, are all Baptists and members of the Huichol indigenous group were expelled from their homes
Tuesday, January 26, under threat of violence, including lynching, rights investigators said.
A community assembly held at noon had given the Christians three hours to leave and that a truck would pass by their homes to remove them from the village, said Jorge Lee Galindo, director of the Mexican religious freedom organisation Impulso 18.
The National Baptist Convention of Mexico (NBCM) said that after the Christians were being taken away by the truck, the group was
‘abandoned’ in the mountains.
NBCM said it had transported most of them to the municipality of Puente de Camotlán, a safer municipality about an hour away from their homes, where some received shelter. Other Christians are staying in the main town of Bolaños municipality. Spokesman Humberto Bayon of the Open Doors-Mexico advocacy group said the Christians are hoping for government intervention to allow them to return home and to retain their lands.
Threats of expulsion have been ongoing since December 6 last year when a resolution was adopted by the village assembly saying that the
Protestant members of the community would be expelled if they refused to convert to Roman Catholicism, described as "the traditional faith", Christians said.
Lee Galindo said in published remarks that this violated an agreement made under a previous local government that guaranteed the Protestants’ right to freedom of religion. However current village leaders told the local assembly in December they would not abide by any
Lee Galindo said the Jalisco State Human Rights Commission was alerted to "the threats" against the "religious minority in Tuxpan de Bolaños in December" and recommended a community dialogue to resolve the problem.
State and Federal government officials were also made aware of the threats, however, "no preventative measures" were taken to stop the "mass displacement", CSW said in a statement.
CSW's Thomas suggested this was not an isolated incident. "Unfortunately, we have seen similar government inaction in repeated cases of severe violations of freedom of religion or belief in Mexico," he said.
The troubles, he added, had been "compounded by impunity for those responsible for these crimes." Thomas said that CSW and others, "call on the Mexican government, at both Federal and State level, to take swift action to facilitate the safe return of the 20 displaced Huichol families in Jalisco and to ensure that fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, are respected and upheld by the authorities at every level.”
It was not immediately clear when and if Mexican authorities would intervene.
Devoted Protestant and evangelical Christians are a relative small minority, comprising less than 7 percent in the heavily traditional Catholic nation of some 122 million people. The government is under pressure to improve their rights at a time when the nation is also struggling to combat violent crime. Mexico has one of the highest rates of kidnappings in the world, and tens of thousands have been killed in drugs-related gang violence since December 2006.
Powerful cartels control the trafficking of drugs from South America to the United States, a business that is worth an estimated $13 billion annually, experts say.