Christians are being encouraged to pray for two protestant families who are under threat of forced displacement in Mexico at the hands of community leaders belonging to the religious majority.
At a community meeting on 6th September, the two families were forbidden to speak and threatened with being cut off from essential services or expelled from the community if they continue to hold religious services and do not pay the rest of an illegal fine that was levied as part of an extra-legal agreement in January 2020.
Both families belong to the First Baptist Church in La Mesa Limantitla, north of Mexico City. Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling on state officials in Hidalgo to intervene on behalf of the two Protestant families.
Protestant families in the area have been under pressure for over two and a half years now, after many were forced to sign an agreement renouncing their faith in January 2019.
While 8 families signed the agreement, Mr Cruz Hernández, Mr Santiago Hernández and their wives, Maria Francisca Martínez Hernández and Angelina Martínez Hernández, refused to do so. As a result, their access to water, sewer services, government benefit programs and the community mill was blocked for over a year until they were forced to sign an extra-legal agreement on in which they renounced their right to hold religious services.
State authorities paid part of an illegal fine. However, the families have continued to be threatened with forced displacement in several follow-up meetings throughout 2020 and 2021.The amount of the fine is based on the costs incurred by community leaders in their efforts to halt any investigation into crimes or human rights violations associated with the case.
Extra-legal agreements are often used in Mexico in lieu of appropriate justice mechanisms when the rights of religious minorities are violated. For the most part, these agreements tend to uphold the position of the majority and often invite further restrictions on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).
CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said: “If the state government refuses to protect the rights of religious minorities, the federal government must intervene. The government, at both state and federal levels, must address the culture of impunity which has allowed violations like these to go unchecked for far too long, ensuring that families like those of Mr Cruz Hernández and Mr Santiago Hernández are free to practice any religion or belief of their choosing without being forced to pay illegal fines or facing pressure to renounce their beliefs under threat of criminal actions including the cutting of basic services and forced displacement.”