Date: February 3, 2016
by Elizabeth Kendal Pope Francis will visit Mexico for a six-day tour over 12-17 February. His itinerary will include visits to poor and indigenous communities and his message will 'highlight issues of economic justice, migration, drug-related violence and the rights of indigenous peoples'. His tour will commence in the south and end in the far north, in Ciudad Juarez, from where he will enter the US, apparently in solidarity with migrants. While in Ciudad Juarez Pope Francis will visit a prison to meet with prisoners. Though not on the agenda, hopefully he might also get to meet Ciudad Juarez's angels: poor Protestant youths, from a small evangelical church known as 'Psalm 100', who risked their lives to present a message of repentance and righteousness to Ciudad Juarez's drug-trafficking murderers, and in doing so changed their city. [See Religious Liberty Monitoring (Feb 2012)] Though Mexico is overwhelmingly Catholic (around 80 percent of the population), the Catholic Church is in decline, riddled as it is with the rapidly growing Satanic cult of Santa Muerle (Saint Death) and the syncretism so prevalent in historically animist indigenous communities. In this context, Protestant Christianity has grown from 4.9 percent of the population in 1990 to 7.6 percent in 2010, arousing jealousy and angst in the Catholic Church. Though Mexico has excellent religious freedom laws, the situation on the ground is far from satisfactory and Protestants are in the firing line. Sometimes the persecution is incited by jealous Catholic clergy. At other times it is driven by fear that Protestant refusal to participate in idol worship or animist rituals will attract the wrath of belligerent spirits. More often than not it is a mixture of both. In the most recent case, Baptist officials have confirmed that ten Baptist families, comprising 18 adults and 10 children, have been expelled from Tuxpan de Bolanos, an indigenous Huichol community in the north of Jalisco State. (Some reports give double these numbers.) In December the village assembly adopted a resolution vowing to expel the Baptists if they did not return to Roman Catholicism, which the assembly described as 'the traditional faith'. Even though state and federal government officials and the Jalisco State Human Rights Commission were alerted, no action was taken to save the believers from forced displacement. On 26 January the Protestants were informed a truck would come to their homes to take them away. They were warned that if they failed to co-operate they would be lynched. According to the National Baptist Convention of Mexico (NBCM), after being taken away by the truck the group was 'abandoned' in the mountains. The NBCM collected the believers and transported them to safety in Puente de Camotlan, in neighbouring Nayarit. Such persecution occurs frequently in Mexico, especially in indigenous communities. Despite Mexico's excellent religious freedom provisions, persecution persists primarily because the country's laws are not upheld and the persecutors are never punished but are protected by Catholic officials. If Pope Francis really believes in justice and really cares about indigenous peoples and the poor, then he should raise his voice of authority and call for an end to Roman Catholic persecution of Mexico's Protestant Christians, most of whom are poor and indigenous. PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT * God, our merciful father, will provide for the displaced Baptists of Tuxpan de Bolanos, supplying all their needs and securing justice on their behalf. 'Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. . . . For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.' (Psalm 100:3,5 ESV) * Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, will lead and guide Mexico's Protestants, especially their local shepherds/pastors, as they risk much to offer life and hope to a troubled land and a desperately needy people. Lord, in your grace and mercy, continue to bless their courageous, sacrificial and costly witness. * the Holy Spirit will move Pope Francis to raise his authoritative Catholic voice in defence of religious freedom and in the cause of justice, for the sake of Mexico's mostly poor and indigenous, persecuted Protestants. CHINA UPDATE: PASTOR GU YUESE ARRESTED Last week's RLPB 341 reported that the Three Self Patriotic Movement (China's official Church) and China Christian Council (official organisation) had dismissed Pastor 'Joseph' Gu Yuese as pastor of the 10,000-strong TSPM Chongyi Church in the Zhejiang capital, Hangzhou, after he criticised the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy of removing crosses in Zhejiang. On 27 January police arrested Pastor Gu at his home and placed him in secret detention where he is reportedly being investigated for corruption. According to reports, 'The incident has sparked significant uproar in the Christian community in China.' As China Aid head Bob Fu told the BBC, the charges are nothing more than 'political revenge' for disloyalty to the CCP. Please pray.