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Two of the family members in El Mesón Zapote. Credit: CSW
Two of the family members in El Mesón Zapote. Credit: CSW
World News

Protestant families face expulsion from Mexico community

CSW is calling on state officials in Guerrero, Mexico, to intervene on behalf of a group of religious minority families who are facing the threat of forced displacement.

The 10 Protestant families have received threats of expulsion from the El Mesón Zapote community in the municipality of Ayutla de los Libres at the hands of community leaders belonging to the Catholic religious majority. 

They've also seen their rights as community members restricted including the right to vote and access to social benefit programmes.

The threats and restrictions to families, who belong to the Land of Revival Church, violate a written agreement signed on 23 May 2019, in which community leaders from El Mesón Zapote committed to respect the religious beliefs of every resident after interventions from state officials. It was initiated after Protestant families in the village experienced a sustained campaign of harassment aimed at forcing them to accept positions in service of the local Catholic church, according to CSW.

Last month, on November 11, armed community police threatened the Protestant families with expulsion after they refused to make a financial contribution of 500 pesos (approximately £18.80) per month towards the construction of a new Catholic church in in El Mesón Zapote. Community leaders had directed every resident in the community to contribute.

CSW said the families explained that they held different religious beliefs. In response, community leaders have restricted their rights, and removed them from other positions held in the village.

On the 14th November, CSW reported that community leaders, accompanied by armed community police, destroyed Land of Revival Church furniture and threatened the families with "consequences" if they did not contribute to the construction of the Catholic church.

Mexican law gives indigenous communities the right to protect their culture and maintain traditional governing structures as long as fundamental human rights protected by the Mexican constitution, including freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), are respected. 

According to CSW, who have documented several similar cases in Guerrero and other states in Mexico in 2020. a widespread lack of understanding of legal protections at the local level and a failure of state officials to intervene in cases involving FoRB violations leads to a high incidence of human rights violations.

CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said in a statement: "CSW is concerned that community leaders in El Mesón Zapote have denied these families their rights for a month now, and are now threatening them with forced displacement. If the leaders of El Mesón Zapote are unwilling to abide by the agreement that they signed in 2019 then it is incumbent on the state government of Guerrero and the federal government of Mexico to intervene in the case to guarantee a just resolution for these families that protects and restores their rights. We call on the leaders of El Mesón Zapote to cease their harassment of these families and to allow them to practice their religion without hindrance or illegal conditions."

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