VOM Mexico sends to printers abridged Spanish study version of In the Shadow of the Cross: Theology of Persecution and Discipleship

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The three part study version of In the Shadow of the Cross by VOMC’s Glenn Penner, planned since before his death in 2010, is finally being printed, thanks to a funding project by the VOMC Mission office. The abridged version is accomodated to be more accesible to the persecuted Body of Christ in Mexico and in general.

The first study is actually taken from the last chapter in Glenn’s original text book, to present Glenn to the Mexican reader, and to exhort the church to do it’s homework… fulfill the Great Commission instead of standing by and waiting for the return of Christ to take the church out of this world, through understanding God’s reasons for waiting, or for delaying the return of Christ.

It lays the basis for the second and main part of the manual, understanding and delving into Glenn’s development of the Theology of Persecution and Discipleship, that Pastor Daniel Celis, presents from Genesis through Apocalypsis with relevant comments and a point of view that reflects his own experience and studies with the persecution of the Body of Christ in Mexico.

The third study is a presentaion of the ministerial protocols developed in a collaboration between Luis Antonio Herrera, native of Chiapas, with more than 20 years of experience in the persecution field, and Linda Picard, an American bi-vocational missionary, responsible for initially establishing the VOM Mission in Mexico.

The mediation, pastoral, and social networking skills of Luis and his organization, Coordination of Christian Organizations (Coordinacion Organizaciones Cristianas), along with Linda’s personal and social skills, combined with the love for Voice of the Martyrs as a ministry, facilitated the devolpment and refining of a first class integral program of Immediate and Secondary attention to and for the Persecuted Church in Mexico.

Added to the third study are case examples, programs, and projects to illustrate how VDLM – VOM Mexico has developed the best all round plan of attention with a small staff and little funds, and the coordination of efforts by others including pastors, churches, ministries and NGO’s.

Throughout the three studies are Interactive Dynamics taken from the VOM USA 100 Suggestions to become involved… to make this small work not just an academic study but a common sense and practical exercise in responding to: persecution, those who are persecuted, and those who are persecuting our brethren or us.

Ten thousand manuals should be available by the end of July, and will be presented at the VOM Mexico August General Assembly in Chiapas for team training in presenting the principles and ideas around Mexico. Workshops will then be sheduled in different regions with the hope of impacting the Body of Christ in Mexico, and affirming those who are actually facing persecution in the flesh.

If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact this office or VOMC for more information. Your prayers are appreciated always as we set out on this new stage of ministry.

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Mexico: Displaced protestants refused re-entry to village amid ongoing religious freedom violations in Chiapas

A group of 47 displaced Protestants from Chiapas State, Mexico, were refused re-entry to their village despite state government promises that village leaders had agreed to uphold religious freedom.

The Protestants, who were forcibly expelled from Buenavista Bahuitz village in Chiapas State in 2012, were initially told that they could only return to their homes if they converted to Roman Catholicism and participated in Roman Catholic religious activities. According to Luis Herrera, director of the Coordination of Christian Organizations of Chiapas (COOC), the group later received assurances from the state government that they had negotiated the return of the displaced group and that their religious freedom would be protected.

The government promise of action came after a month-long peaceful sit-in in front of the state government palace in Tuxtla Gutierrez by the Buenavista Bahuitz group and other communities of forcibly displaced Protestants. The sit-in ended on 1 December after the state government made verbal commitments to address their situation.

The group set out for Buenavista Bahuitz in the early hours of 20 January by bus, accompanied by some state government officials. Upon arrival at the village, they were met by village leaders who demanded that the Protestants convert to Catholicism before they would be permitted to stay. Herrara noted that the government officials present appeared to be taken by surprise by the village leaders’ stance and questioned their preparations. Negotiations were held on the spot and the village leaders eventually agreed to allow the Protestants to stay if they paid a fine which Herrera described as “extremely high.” The group declined and returned to the grounds of a church in the city of Comitán de Domínguez Tuxtla Gutirerrez where they have lived in rudimentary housing for the past two and a half years. where they have been sheltered by the Jesus es el Camino church, pastored by Josue Perez Pardo.

The events of 20 January follow a series of serious religious freedom violations and forced displacements in Chiapas this month. In early January in the municipality of San Juan Chamula, tensions erupted after Protestants in the village of Las Ollas declined to participate in festivals celebrating the Roman Catholic patron saint of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadelupe. According to the  Organización de Pueblos Evangélicos de los Altos de Chiapas (OPEACH), the villagers had been compelled to pay financial contributions to Catholic festivals in the village over the past year, but had decided they would no longer do so in December 2014. They were subsequently attacked, beaten, and had their water and electricity cut on 8 January 2015. OPEACH stated that the village leaders have also threatened to bar the Protestant children from attending school and to block Protestant families from receiving state benefits allocated to the community.

On 14 January, a group of ten Protestants were forcibly displaced from the community of La Florecilla in San Cristóbal de las Casas municipality after having their water and electricity supplies interrupted, and after being physically attacked, arbitrarily imprisoned and given a deadline by village authorities to renounce their faith or be forced to leave. Local religious leaders in San Cristóbal de las Casas, who have offered refuge to the families, informed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that the problem had been going on since 2011 and that numerous complaints to the municipal and state governments had been made but no action had been taken to protect the rights of the group or to uphold the rule of law.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We are extremely disappointed that the government of Chiapas did not follow through on its promises to assure the safe return of the Buenavista Bahuitz community and to uphold their religious freedom. The events of 20 January, which have occurred amidst serious violations of religious freedom and the forced displacement of religious minorities in other parts of the state, call into question the state government’s purported commitment to defending religious freedom and addressing these and the approximately 30 other cases of religious freedom violations in the state of Chiapas. We continue to call on the state government to meet its obligations under Mexican and international law and urge the federal government to intervene if the state government is unable or unwilling to fulfill it

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

March of 1000+ Evangelicals in support of Persecuted Brethren in Chiapas Mexico

DSCF4996The Persecuted Church in Chiapas, supported by the presence and participation of more than 1000 persons, many from the varied persecuted groups themselves, Friday, October 31st in their march in the capital: Tuxtla Gutierrez. A Voice was heard for the almost 70 cases documented just in Chiapas alone. The march began at 9:30 am, with groups who began their making their way to the capital from different points around the state at 3 am and were accompanied for the day long event by local churches in Tuxtla and from San Cristobal.

DSCF5010The groups representing all those persecuted in the state stated that God’s heart is in Chiapas, and lifted their authorities to Him in prayer during the day, and asked them, especifically the governor, to do what is just, and respect their rights.

DSCF5058The governor was not present, and the groups refused to speak again with Religious Affairs and government officials who have patently ignored them, or actively blocked the resolution of cases since 2008.

DSCF4989The event was planned and organized over a month ago by Luis Herrera, President of Ministerios VDLM-VOM Mexico known as Voice of the Martyrs Mexico, his wife Maria Dolores Hernandez, as Coordinator of Kids of Courage VOM Mexico,( with Pastor Oscar of Matamoros) and the collaboration through Coordinacion Organizaciones Cristanas of the groups affected and a number of organizations, ministries and churches… including: Open Doors, the Council of Evangelical Churches in Chiapas, the Confraternity of Evangelical Churches in Chiapas, various Pastors Alliances in San Cristobal de las Casas where there are several cases , Huixtan where persecution is still common, Teopisca municipality where many persecuted were re located in the past 30 years, and Comitan, which has seen both cases of persecution and been a place of refuge for those fleeing aggressions.

DSCF4992Pastor Clever, one of the more faithful voices and forces in support of the perscuted brethren with several of the brothers from the group in Mariano Matamoros… community no Indigena, beseiged and threatened constantly by their local authorities. Also indespensable is Pastor Josue and his congregations around the state, busy in attending to the practical needs like feeding all gathered there, and the Buena Vista group with plans on camping out in front of the governor’s office until he finds time to talk with them.

The day was disheartening as far as waiting to see some vestige of interest on the government’s part, but blessed in fellowship and encouraging one another. it is unusual for different ethnic groups to unite, passing over language and cultural differences… In Christ we are all united, and the time spent together was a day of being concerned for one another and rejoicing as ONE Family in Christ.

No action taken sincerely, and looking to glorify our God is in vain. All knew that our God is moving and working in the Heavens that which needs attention here in their humble lives.

DSCF4976Humberto (Director OD) with the group from Buena Vista.

 

Persecuted Brethren Choosing VOM

DSCF0450 Luis Antonio Lopez Herrera COOC / VDLM pictured with a group from varied regions (ASAP Base) A new type of Legal Counseling & Mediation in Chiapas.

Most VOM Missions choose  or develop projects for persecuted groups in a varying range of backgrounds: regional, religious, etnias, ideological, armed conflicts etc. Voice of the Martyrs in Mexico has the distinction of having their office right in the middle of the persecution zone, and an extension in the state of Sinaloa, one of the foremost drug cartel states. We function and minister from within the persecution zone, and we don’t choose groups or projects… they choose us.

In 2009 VOM Mexico had contact with several cases, because of VOMC’s visit to Chiapas and the taping of Mexican Voices. At that time we met groups from Chilil, Las Margaritas, Ocosingo, San Cristobal, Chamula, Los LLanos and San Gregorio,  and had already met in 2006 with Estela Luna and her group from the Acteal case. We maintained relationships with them through 2012, and met through the years others from Zinacantan.

With the change in governors in 2012, and  the disappearance of the sources of corruption in the area of religious persecution, many groups were abandoned and no longer had legal representation. In 2013, they began arriving at our doorstep, calling by telephone, or being referred by other groups. By the end of 2013, we had developed relationships of trust with some 30+ groups. In mid 2014 that number has grown.

So, we weren’t choosing cases, or whom to attend to, but receiving those who came to us, on an equal basis. Most groups are in the process of being expelled from their communities, or have already been expelled, having lost almost everything.

We are pleased and blessed to have been accepted by these groups and families who have in the past been betrayed by families, neighbors, their authorities, and some by their Evangelical leaders or lawyers. We hope to continue ministering to them, to others, and in the process reach out to communities who don’t understand yet, that having  Christians in their communities is and should be a blessing.

Please lift in prayer:

  • Perscuted groups not just in the state of Chiapas, but in Oaxaca, Michoacan, Guerrero and those who are oppressed by armed groups in other regions.
  • Functionaries of Mexican government from federal, state and local levels that they might attend the existent cases in an honest manner without looking for political advantage or benefit.
  • Evangelical pastors and leaders that they might be more sensitive to the needs of their perscuted brethren, and demonstrate that discrimination of Indigena brethren is no longer the rule.
  • Provision so that VDLM-VOM might continue to serve the persecuted brethren in Chiapas and in other parts of Mexico.

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