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World News

Christian woman tied to tree and beaten over land dispute

by Tola Mbakwe

A religious persecution watchdog has reported that a Christian woman in Mexico has been left in a critical condition in hospital after she was tied to a tree and severely beaten.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said the 21st December incident happened after Maria Concepcion Hernández from the Huejutla de los Reyes Municipality visited a plot of land that she owns after her neighbour asked her to cut down two trees.

She’s a member of the Great Commission Baptist Church in the community of Rancho Nuevo, and according to CSW, local authorities have banned members of the religious minority from accessing their land or growing crops on it since 2015.

CSW’s head of advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: "The life of a woman hangs in the balance and a community is living in fear because, despite ample evidence of serious violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Rancho Nuevo for more than seven years, the Mexican authorities have failed to intervene.

“Instead, Hidalgo State government officials, under the previous governor, have for years publicly denied the existence of cases of religious intolerance in the state. We hold these authorities, alongside those directly involved in the attack, responsible for the events of 21 December”.

CSW reports that the Hernández’s pastor was physically attacked when he tried to stop the beating and was detained for two hours. Local leaders also demanded that he give them the deeds to ten plots of land belonging to members of the Baptist church. When the pastor refused, the leaders threatened to take over the land by force. Meanwhile, villagers have not been allowed to visit Hernández in hospital.

CSW said the situation is one of many freedom of religion or belief violations happening in the predominantly Roman Catholic area of Rancho Nuevo.

Other violations include forcing religious minorities to participate in Roman Catholic festivals, and it they refuse, they could be detained, beaten, refused medical care, fired form their jobs and more.

Stangl added: “We call on Governor Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar to ensure that his administration takes swift action to bring to justice those responsible for this brutal attack and the ongoing threats against members of the religious minority in Rancho Nuevo. We urge Governor Menchaca Salazar to work closely with the state human rights commission and federal religious affairs officials to put in place policies that recognize the existence of serious FoRB violations in Hidalgo and develop effective and timely ways to address them in accordance with Mexico’s legal protections for human rights.”

No arrests have been made in the incident.

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