Losing access to water and other essential government services is being used as a way to make Christian families in Mexico sign illegal agreements, renouncing their right to hold religious services
However, two Protestant families who signed such an agreement were informed on 22nd August that they risk being cut off again if they cannot pay the remainder of a huge fine that was part of the agreement.
The two families from La Mesa Limantitla village in Hidalgo State had refused to sign a similar document renouncing their faith in January last year while eight other Protestant families in the village were forced to.
As a result of their refusal to do so, the two families had their access to water, drainage, government benefit programs and the community mill cut off for over a year until they signed it in January this year.
At that time, the local authorities paid part of an exorbitant fine that was part of the agreement. However, after several follow-up meetings, the families have been told that they face being cut off from essential services again as they cannot afford to pay the rest of the fine.
Campaign group Christian Solidarity Worldwide says freedom of religion violations - such as the denial of access to water and electricity, blocking religious minority children from attending school, arbitrary detention and forced displacement - are common in the Huasteca region of Hidalgo, which has a large indigenous population.
Mexican law gives indigenous communities the right to protect their culture and maintain traditional governing structures as long as human rights, including freedom of religion, are respected. However, a lack of understanding and government inaction leads to high incidences of rights violations.
CSW's chief executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We are deeply troubled by the government's inaction in the Huasteca region and the persistent violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief. We call on the Hidalgo State Governor, Omar Fayad Meneses, to address the injustices against these families without delay, and to ensure that officials in his administration uphold rule of law. We also call on both federal and state governments in Mexico to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief and to ensure just outcomes for all religious minority communities experiencing violations on account of their religious beliefs."