November 2014: IDOP Around Mexico

This year we made a greater effort from our social network sites to promote IDOP: the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We had saw a reach extended to various nations in Latina America from Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and around Mexico, including in the states of Tabasco, Campeche, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and Sonora to name a few. We are finding more and more Latinos are interested in Extreme Missions and the persecution in restricted or hostile areas. Many are paying close attention to reports about atrocities perpetrated against our Christian brethren, and the constant attacks against Christians in Nigeria, Pakistan, Siria and Irak in particular… and they want to know if what they are hearing is true or exaggerated… and how to respond. DSCF5324                            Villa Union Sinaloa… DSCF5346                            Mazatlan, Sinaloa DSCF4827                         Temas de IDOP 2014: Ten Misericordia sobre ellos Señor.

Enfoque en Siria; Las Jovencitas raptadas de Chibok, Nigeria; Irak; las familias de los jovenes deChibok; los niños y familias refugiados de Siria y Irak; Los encarcelados como Asia Bibi y Pastor Saeed; los que se sientan abandonados; Petra y los demas de Los LLanos en Chiapas; y los que no puedan adorar a Dios en iglesias, … por donde sean. DSC_0236Chiapas Mexico con Director Luis Herrera, Coordinadora Niños Valientes Lolita Hernandez y niños voluntarios. DSC_0168Eduardo Lopez de Buena Vista Grupo compartiendo en Iglesia Nazarena de Tuxtla Gutierrez. idop 3Equipo Voz de los Martires y afectados comparten sus propios testimonios en Tuxtla. idop 10 Prayer Points:

  • Concern and discernment on part of Latin American churches for their brethren who suffer for the sause of Christ.
  • Prayer and physical support for those brethren through organizations like VOM and missions.
  • For strenghth and grace of Spirit for those who personally experiment persecution for sharing and exercising their faith, to maintain their confidence and hope no matter what the cost, and in so doing win those to Christ who would persecute them.
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Christian Organisations Call for International Pressure on Mexico Regarding Religious Freedom

  19/11/2014

Credit: Coordination of Christian Organizations of Chiapas

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) joins Impulso 18, Open Doors-Mexico and Voice of the Martyrs-Mexico in calling on the international community to hold Mexico to account on religious freedom issues.

The joint call follows last week’s national conference on freedom of religion and belief in Mexico City, which included testimony from victims of religious freedom violations and contributions from experts on the topic.

The conference coincided with a peaceful protest by communities who have been forcibly displaced because of their religious beliefs, and which began on 31 October in front of the government palace in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the state of Chiapas. The protesters, including children and the elderly, are calling on the state government to address their cases as a matter of urgency. At least one of the affected communities has been displaced for more than five years.

Representatives from the protesting communities participated in the conference in Mexico City, organized by Mexican religious freedom organisation Impulso 18 and CSW. Fidel Lopez Hernandez of the Buenavista Bahuitz community, a group of 44 men, women and children who has been displaced since 23 July 2012, told those present at the conference that the government had shown little interest in resolving the case. No one from the town has been held to account for the arbitrary detention, physical violence and sexual assault which accompanied the forced expulsion of the Protestants.

Luis Herrera, Director of Voice of the Martyrs-Mexico, said, “Because of the way in which the different states in Mexico deal with cases of religious intolerance, we call on the different levels of government to pay special attention to find an immediate solution to these religious conflicts, especially considering the length of time some of these cases have gone on. This includes the State of Chiapas, which leads in terms of numbers of cases due to a reluctance to make significant decisions to tackle the root of the problem. We call on the government to develop the appropriate policies and to appoint capable civil servants, who will promote a message of tolerance in all communities for a healthy co-existence.”

Humberto Bayon, Director of Open Doors-Mexico said, “As coordinator of Open Doors in Mexico, the conference to which our entire team and representatives were kindly invited opened to us up a wider perspective on the issue of religious intolerance. While our organisation focuses mainly on our ‘family of faith’ (Galatians 6:10), it was refreshing to learn from the speakers and academics that one should not be tolerant of intolerance. For our team, learning how to use the mechanisms for appeal in international institutions like the United Nations and the European Union was the most worthwhile of that which we received during these days together.”

Dr Jorge Lee Galindo, President of Impulso 18, said, “Systematic religious freedom violations at all levels have been endemic in Mexico for centuries. Some of the most egregious are the forced expulsions of members of minority faiths, often accompanied by violence and the violation of other rights, including access to water and to an education, which occur mostly in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Oaxaca and Puebla. Rather than seeking to uphold the constitutional rights of these citizens, the government has tended to pursue extra-legal agreements that often result in the continued violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief. There is little political will in Mexico, on the state or federal levels, to properly address and resolve these cases; therefore we believe that international pressure and focused attention on the issue is key.”

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “It is unacceptable that in a modern and diverse democracy like Mexico these types of serious religious freedom violations continue to take place on a regular basis, affecting thousands of men, women and children, with no adequate response from the Mexican government at any level. We call on members of the international community, including the European Union and the United States, to actively monitor the religious freedom situation in Mexico and to hold the government to account under its obligations in the treaties to which it is party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Cultural, Social and Economic Rights – as a matter of urgency. Communities like that of Buenavista Bahuitz cannot afford to wait any longer for their rights to be upheld.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Law of Uses and Customs, which is in effect in many parts of the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Puebla and Guerrero, gives significant autonomy to indigenous communities. It is meant to be exercised in line with the fundamental human rights protections in the Mexican Constitution and international treaties to which Mexico is party; however, this is rarely enforced. Local leaders frequently try to enforce community uniformity in terms of religious practice and belief, compelling members of the community to participate in the religious activities of the majority or face punishment. Violations range in severity, but in the absence of government intervention, and because of a failure to hold the perpetrators to account, they all too often escalate to the point of destruction of property, arbitrary detention, forced displacement and violence.
  2. For more information see CSW’s report on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Mexico.

PS: Voice of the Martyrs Mexico works in the field and is the direct source for the majority of cases in Mexico. Work is done through the following programs:

  • Immediate Attention and Mediation
  • Women in the Breach and Family Workshops Vocational Training / Projects
  • Locos por Jesus Youth
  • Kids of Courage
  • Blessings and Humanitarian Aid

We are a Mexican national office of VOM which means we are self sustaining, receiving donations and offerings fronorganizations and the Body of Christ. It is no small accomplishment to do so in Latin America. You may make donations to the above programs through deposits to:

Name: MINISTERIOS VDLM VOM MEXICO, A.C.

Acct #: 0196498256 

Bank: BBVA BANCOMER S.A.

Swift: BCMRMXMMPYM    

ABA: 21000021

CLABE: 012130001964982561  

Number and Name of branch / Sucursal: 4439 – SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS

Prayer Alert: Persecuted Evangelical Groups Marching in Chiapas October 31st

DSC_0040Photos from April 2014: March of Bible Heroes in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas; The children and teens of families persecuted for their faith and expelled from their communities had been invited to participate in a Childrens Day activity in the capital, and were prepared to express their thoughts and needs to government officials.  Some of the kids are members of groups that VOMC taped in December of 2009, for the Mexican Voices video.

DSC_0052 The Evangelical members of the communities of Chilil, Yashtinin and Buena Vista were present, marching in the Children’s Parade,  with the idea of sharing something of their testimonies and afterwards to speak with someone from the governor’s office about their situation.

Many of them have lost their schooling for several years… while they have also had to learn to speak Spanish and to accomodate themselves to a new urban culture.

DSC_0065 The government officials rejected abruptly the idea of receiving the children and youth, although they themselves are well known for their tendency for photo ops with kids in their publicity and campaigning: when it is convenient for them. One of the officials even commented that they could accuse the Evangelicals of manipulating the kids for their own agenda. 

Where is the so called respect or concern for the Children’s Declaration of Rights  when kids want to speak for themselves instead of waiting for politicians do it for them?

DSC_0082 Many of the young participants are now youth, and have been training as Sunday School Teachers or for VBS teachers in VOM Mexico’s program CAP / ED this past year.

They have proven themselves to be very capable, and having learned to speak Spanish are able to express their own needs!

DSC_0084 With this same voice and capacity they are able to share and teach the Word of God, sing to and praise the Lord, cry out about the injustices in their communities, and question the apathy of the government when it concerns the religious rights of Evangelical Indigenas.

This Friday the 31st of October, they will not be marching alone… they will be accompanied by their families, their churches, Pastors from the Chiapas Alliances, and their friends in Christ. 

Remembering the Day of the Reformation, when Martin Luther nailed his theses to the doors of the Roman Catholic Cathedral almost 500 years ago, Evangelicals in Chiapas will march peacefully and respectfully, to draw the attention of a government which has in general not shown them much consideration or respect. And where the majority church has received preference where it should not.  And if the governor and his officials continue to ignore their cries, they will raise their voices on a  national level, and through their brothers and sisters in Christ on the international level in Mexico City next week, through those who are their voices where they have not been heard before.

They know that Almighty God hears them, and that He has no favorities, is not concerned about winning their votes, nor receiving gifts. They know He is not deceived , that He can not be bought, but that He is just and looks on them with affection, humble as they are, and understands their petitions to just return to their homes, to live and share their faith as it is their right.

The groups are carrying 12 municipal banners representing regions where religious persecution is still prevalent. And the Buena Vista group has decided to stay and camp out in front of the Governor’s mansion until he can give them a return date, or show reasonable progress in a supervised return to their community. Their decision is based on increased agressions suffered in the past few weeks from their community authorities and the obvious interference and colusion of government officials with them.

Please keep all in your prayers: the persecuted, the government officials and the community authorities themselves.

 

Blast from the Past 2013 and Update 2014: New Evangelical Alliance in Huixtan Holds 1st ever March in Huixtan, Chiapas

New Evangelical alliance in Huixtan Hold 1st ever March in Huixtan, Chiapas

2013. A new alliance of some 12 protestant church groups held their first ever Evangelical march and crusade in Huixtan Chiapas last weekend. Pastor Severino here, was expelled over 20 years ago from his community, and his church destroyed. The man responsible asked for his forgiveness several months ago, and opened the door for the work to begin again. Please keep these brothers and their congregations in prayer… for wisdom and discernment in sharing the Good News in such a way that gains souls and mutual respect, and not more violence against them.

UPDATE 2013-2014:  both directors of VOM Mexico began attending the Huixtan Alliance monthly meetings, and in this manner both forged relationships with many of the municipal pastors and their congregations, and for 2013 developed community projects using our Family Workshop Leader Veronica, and complemented with the Kids of Courage Leader Lolita, making our monthly community visits a team VOM project. Communities visited on a regular basis were Lopez Mateo, Chempil, San Antonio, San Gregorio, and Zitim.

The Alliance progressed with a few bumps in the road during the year… habits of intolerance and impunity are hard to let go of. This past year the Alliance asked for permission for their second march and Evangelistic campaign in the center of town, which was granted begrudgingly. All appeared to go well, although there was an atmospshere of tenseness. We learned that the second day, the parish priest went to see the Religious Affairs Director in the city, armed with petitions from the Catholic Church, and some of their prominent citizens to insist that the permission be cancelled since the Catholic authorities deemed the Evangelistic Campaign an afront, and claimed it wouldn’t be responsible for the violence it was sure to cause. Thankfully, the government official in the office at the time, denied the exisitence of any legitimate authority aside from those elected and lectured the priest and his people about the constitutional rights of religious freedom. It was a first, and a very welcome step. The government official deserves recognition for doing the job designated, inspite of pressure from superiors in Religious Affairs, but given the situation and the risk it would represent, we would ask you to keep this person in prayer for continued courage and blessing.

The cases in the municipality still have not been resolved and the fact that the EZLN is again moving its autonomous communities to protest various government programs means that the situation remains delicate, until the problem is treated at it’s roots. The autonomous communities use their afiliation with the EZLN (Zapatista Movement) for their convenience in excluding Evangelicals from their communities.

The unresolved cases are Chilil with 30+ persons, expelled since November of 2009, and covered in Greg Mussulman’s book: “Closer to the Fire”, and the communities of San Gregorio and Zitim which we work with through a Reconciliation Project for women with the donation of sewing machines from the VOMC office.

 

 

Blast from the Past VOM Mexico: Los LLanos Group Living in Exile Still

SEEN HERE ARE THE MAJORITY OF INDIGENA EVANGELICAL BELIEVERS WHO WERE EXPELLED FROM THEIR COMMUNITIES OF LOS LLANOS AND SAN GREGORIO IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO AFTER THEY WERE ATTACKED BY NEIGHBORS , THEIR HOUSES DESTROYED, WATER AND LIGHTS CUT, AND DISPOSSESSED OF ALL THEIR BELONGINGS, LAND, ANIMALS, AND CROPS.

AUTHORITIES IN LOS LLANOS ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF SAN CRISTOBAL, AND SAN GREGORIO IN HUIXTAN WHO OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR AFILIATION WITH THE ZAPATISTA MOVEMENT AND THEIR POLITICAL WING, LA OTRA CAMPAÑA, BELIEVE THAT THEIR INDIGENOUS CUSTOMS TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER THE MEXICAN CONSTITUTION, AND THAT ALL THEIR INHABITANTS MUST NOT ONLY SUPPORT THE MORE THAN A DOZEN TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS BUT ALSO PARTICIPATE IN THE PAGAN RITUALS COMBINED WITH CATHOLIC RITES, THE ALCOHOLIC DRINKING AND IN GIVING OFFERINGS TO THEIR GODS AND SAINTS, AND IN PAYING A CUOTA FOR EACH MALE 14 YEARS OLD AND UP.

THIS IS A HARDSHIP FOR EVANGELICALS WHO ARE NO LONGER PRACTICERS OF THE MAJORITY FAITH, AND WANT TO EXERCISE AND LIVE THEIR OWN.

THE GOVERNMENT ON ALL LEVELS HAS FAILED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE EXISTS, MUCH LESS RESPOND TO THE LEGITIMATE COMPLAINTS OF BELIEVERS THREATENED, DENIED LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL BENEFITS, WHO HAVE THEIR CHILDREN DENIED A PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION, LOSE THE TENANCY OF THEIR LANDS , THE BENEFIT OF THE CROPS THEY SOWED, THEIR CATTLE OR SHEEP, HOUSES, HAVE THEIR CHURCHES TORN DOWN OR BURNED,  OR ARE FACING EXPULSION… AND EVEN DEATH, AS HAD 4 CHRISTIANS  WHO WERE  EXECUTED IN THE PAST 6 MONTHS.

EVEN AFTER FORMAL COMPLAINTS ARE MADE TO THE NATIONAL COMMISSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, THE GOVERNMENT HAS NOT RESPONDED, AND DOES ALL POSSIBLE TO AVOID HAVING TO COMPLY WITH THE NCHR RECOMMEDATIONS… TAKING AS LONG AS MINIMALLY 18 MONTHS AND MORE, IF EVER TO RESPOND. THE SITUATION HAS NOT CHANGED…

THE ROOTS OF INTOLERANCE AND HATRED ARE THE SAME, WITH THE GOVERNMENT AND MAJORITY CHURCH IGNORING, FACILITATING OR EVEN PROMOTING THE SITUATION.

REGRETTABLY THE VOICE OF THE EVANGELICALS IS DROWNED OUT BY RADICAL SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS, AND THOSE WHO MATTER MORE AS BLOCKS OF VOTES TO THE POLITICIANS.

SOME EVANGELICAL ALLIANCES AND LEADERSHIP HAVE TRIED TO GAIN THE GOVERNMENT’S FAVOR, INFLUENCE OR RESOURCES , BY KEEPING A LOW PROFILE, OR EVEN BY DENYING THAT INTOLERANCE EXISTS… SEVERAL GROUPS HAVE ACTUALLY PUBLISHED OR STATED FORMALLY THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS RESOLVED ALL CASES, IN A TIMELY FASHION, AND THAT RELIGIOUS PERSECUCTION NO LONGER EXISTS… JUST FAMILY DISAGREEMENTS.

THIS IS BOTH A DISSERVICE TO THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST WHO SUFFER IN THE NAME OF CHRIST, AND MUST BE AN OFFENSE IN THE SIGHT OF OUR LORD HIMSELF…

PLEASE KEEP MEXICO AND HER PERSECUTED BROTHERS IN YOUR PRAYERS AS THE COMING ELECTIONS AND JOCKEYING BETWEEN POLITICAL PARTIES, EVANGELICAL MINISTRIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS PROMOTE THEIR PROPAGANDA AT COST TO THE EVANGELICALS STUCK IN THE MIDDLE.