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.
Advertisements

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

Feedback on March of Evangelicals in Chiapas / Oct 31st

DSCF4997

One day after the Evangelicals marched on the capital of Chiapas, we are just beginning to hear and see what the effect was. Would you believe that in the early morning hours, at least 2 well known Evangelicals published favorable interviews lauding the state government for the advances it has made in the area of religious intolerance and actual persecution? Now, honestly, how does that look?  You have to ask:

  • Are these Evangelicals deceived by their own good relationships and what they have seen by government officials?
  • Are these Evangelicals bought and paid for by the state government or self interested political figures?
  • What would make or drive an Evangelical to be used this way when over 1000 people, principally Indigenas actually personally affected marched and expressed their pain in front of the government offices?
  • Would they have the courage to present themselves and face those brothers in Christ that they have betrayed by denying them, as Christ was denied by Peter?  How many times in the past have they denied their brethren?
  • What type of government would prefer to lie and manipulate Evangelical leaders than actually do what needs to be done to resolve the active cases, and change the system so that religious tolerance could actually take place?
  • What type of government advises its functionaries not to respond to a march of 1000 peaceful and humble people with real grievances of neglect, sabotaging their cases, and accusing them of protecting their own vested interests?
  • What type of government tells people that there were only 300 marchers that were there, and doesn’t let their own Secretary of State or the Governor know what is happening?
  • What type of governor allows his cabinet and functionaries to do what they wish without accountability?
  • Where were the rest of the Body of Christ, while some of their leaders marched with the persecuted church?
  • Where were the rest of the Pastors and leaders of the Evangelical community?
  • Why in the capital of the state do people not know that there are 70 cases of religious persecution and over 1400 people affected, not all Indigenas, but also various mestizo (Mexican) congregations expelled or persecuted? (Yashtinin and Matamoros to name 2).

DSCF4999The group from Buena Vista, waiting more than 3 years for a resolution other than packing up and allowing themselves to be re-located, is planting itself in the park in front of the government offices. They have already had several services with preaching and worship there! Pastor Josue, leader of one of the largest denominations in the state, returned to spend the night, encouraging them throughout the night. Other groups are stopping by to visit them, some bringing blankets, sweaters, cooked food, and also to leave them with words of encouragment. Other affected groups  are scheduling days or nights to spend with the Buena Vista group… because they are becoming one, as they are meant to be, despite language and cultural differences between one group and another.

  • How is it that the state government has for so long and so badly underestimated the endurance and strength of the humble Evangelicals, even when their leadership betrays them?
  • How is it that the state government preferred and decided to divide and conquer, by offering commissions, benefits, money, material possesions and political positions to Evangelicals , and thought they could always depend on following this same pattern of corruption and abuse?
  • How is it that the government functionaries haven’t realized that their neglect of duty, favoritism, and corruption will someday come to an end, and they will be judged both here and later on by a judge who can not be deceived or bought and paid for?
  • How is it that Evangelical leaders do not fear the Lord, who sees their actions, and knows their hearts?
  • Repent… those of you who are truly part of the Body of Christ, while you can! And while it can make a difference! You are being lifted in prayer along with the persecutors…

DSCF5013People passing by are reading the banners, asking questions, and beginning to read the Bible with them. Several government officials have stopped by to convince them to pick up and go home, trusting the government to do it’s job. The persecuted no longer trust their government, nor it’s officials, with the exception of a few. The Religious affairs office, and the regional directors are pretty much discredited in their eyes, for their personal experience dealing with them for at least several years.

If the state government is not up to it’s job, then they are willing to take their testimonies to a national and international level. They now know in their hearts that their trust is in the Lord… not in any government official or agency. They are drawing closer together, being strenghthened as a body, growing in their faith.

Please continue to lift them in prayer… several will be testifying in Mexico City next week, in a national forum about religious persecution in Chiapas, and others on an international level. They continue to lift in prayer those who have persecuted them, the government that has failed them, and one another. I invite you to join them in prayer and lift your voice to share their concerns and needs as you prepare to celebrate IDOP in your church this year.

VOM Teams visit with Pastor Lorenzo “almost” in Ocosingo

DSCF4562Several VOM Teams traveled all the way to Ocosingo last week to visit with the pastoral coverage of the Selva (Rainforest) groups, including Avellanal, Las Tacitas and Nuevas Tacitas, inside Zapatista territory. Four families were expelled and accomodated last year, and 6 other families are waiting to hear if the authorities will also expel them. The group already displaced is very closeby, and continue to evangelize and disciple others inside the community. The situation is delicate, and every time another Catholic / Traditional religious festival comes around, the harrassment and threats begin all over again. The situation is complicated since the Zapatista groups are self declared autonomous communities which limits what the state or municipal government can accomplish. In this case there is both support from the municipal government and legal mediation through Luis Antonio Herrera of COOC-VDLM, colaboration of Coordination of Christian Organizations and Voice of the Martyrs Mexico specifically. Other state and international organizations have also managed to help with building materials and food.

DSCF4563Because of the blockade we weren’t able to get through, but part of the VOM team walked into Ocosingo, contacted Pastor Lorenzo, and then walked back out to a nearby home of one of Lorenzo’s friends where we could sit and share, and then hand over the food donations for the brethren.

We then could pray with Pastor Lorenzo:

  • for him and his family,
  • the groups affected directly,
  • and those responsible for the persecution itself.

DSCF4575

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.

20140806_123510