CHIAPAS – It is amazing how much we do not know about our USA neighbors to the immediate north and south. We are especially ignorant of religious persecution against Protestants and Evangelicals in Mexico.
Some will be surprised at the allegation because they think that Mexico is a Christian country. Accepting the fact that there is no such thing as a Christian country gets us headed on the right path. That includes the United States. We are a country established on Judeo-Christian principles, but church and state are separate entities.
Mexico is a secular state heavily populated by Roman Catholics. An estimated 88% of Mexicans over the age of five identify as self-professed Catholics. Those identifying either as Protestants or Evangelicals comprise only about 5% of the population. That disparity and the Catholic historical dominance in Mexico make the country Catholic in a practical sense. In fact, a majority of Mexican holidays are intimately tied to Catholic festivals.
It is one of those festivals that sparked the latest persecution of Protestants and Evangelicals.
In April 2019, a number of Evangelicals we invited to a community meeting in the Chiapas community of Zinacantan. The meeting was advertised as a time to “address issues of general interest to their community.”
As it turned out, however, the real purpose of the meeting was to organize the May 3rd Catholic Festival of the Holy Cross and to select a mayordomo to manage, administer, and contribute financially to ensure that the festival is a success.
Without his consent, Pastor Juan Hernandez Perez discovered that he had been selected mayordomo. When he refused to accept the position on the basis of his Evangelical faith, he and about a dozen of the Pentecostal Church Christ Comes members were illegally detained for nearly 24 hours.
Their offense was a failure to participate in the activities of the major religion in Chiapas at the municipal level.
The church members returned to their homes following their release only to find that the water and electricity had been turned off.
This is just one recent scenario that teaches us that it is, and has been, difficult for Evangelical Christians to live, work, and worship freely in the midst of the intolerance of the overwhelmingly Catholic population.
In September 2018, representatives of the municipality of Comitan, Chiapas, refused to allow the interment of a local Evangelical woman who had died. The reason for not allowing the burial? The Evangelical church had not cooperated in the celebration of a local Catholic religious holiday.
Reporting the prohibited burial, Evangelico Digital noted also that 17 Evangelical families since the year 2016 have had their water supply cut off due to not cooperating with local Catholic festivities.
In 2016, Quadritin Chiapas reported that the Chiapas state is “first place in religious persecution.” The story below the headlines reported the forced displacement of Evangelical Christian families from the San Cristobal de las Casas community “for professing a different belief to the rest of the settlers.” Notably, aggressors were identified as mainly from the Catholic church.
In April 2019, Somoselmedio reported that the over 700 people from 115 indigenous families had been expelled from nine different communities for failing to participate in local Catholic festivals. Some 32 families had been displaced from their homes in the Yaxtinin community between 2015 and 2019. They had, at the publication of the article, been unable to return to their homes.
The persecution of Christians is much more prevalent that many of us understand. And it is much closer to home than we care to realize.
To read more news on Religious Persecution on Missions Box, go here.
- Christian Telegraph, Agreement allows Protestants access to water and electricity
- Somoselmedio, 700 indigenous families in Chiapas have been displaced for years because of their religious differences
- Global Security, Mexico – Religion
- Evangelico Digital, Catholics prevent evangelical burial in Chiapas town
- Evangelico Digital, Indigenous Protestants are held back by religious intolerance
- Quadritin Chiapas, Chiapas, first place in religious persecution: Mission 21 Grams