10/08/2015 Washington D.C., (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on October 1, representatives from a displaced Christian Community from Chiapas, along with the Coordination of Christian Organizations (CCO), and leaders from Impulso 18, a Mexican religious freedom organization, met with federal officials of the Religious Affairs department in Mexico City to demand that the ongoing displacement of Protestant Christians in Chiapas be resolved immediately.
For years, Christians in Chiapas have suffered severe discrimination, persecution, and displacement at the hands of local government officials and religious leaders, with little to no assistance from the state or federal governments. According to ICC estimates, dozens of minority religious communities, comprised primarily of Protestant Christians, have been forcibly displaced in central and southern Mexico over the last decade. In many instances, basic utilities have been cut off, children of Protestant Christians have been barred from school, and heavy fines have been imposed on those who refuse to participate in religious festivals. Fed up with what they perceive as a lack of action from the state governments, several displaced groups have banded together and are taking their cases to the federal government.
During the October 1 meeting, representatives of the Los Llanos Christian community and the CCO met with Elizabeth Mandujano, the federal Religious Affairs Director, requesting that the federal government intervene in their case. During the meeting with the religious affairs director, the Los Llanos group, who since 2012 have been expelled from their community, and the CCO, requested that the federal government investigate their case and several other cases of persecution in the region that have been deliberately ignored by the government of Chiapas. The government of Chiapas claims that any preexisting cases of forced displacement have already been resolved. However, Luis Herrera, director of the Coordination of Christian Organizations, stated, “Although the federal Mexican government is making progress to investigate and resolve these cases of persecution and displacement, we fear that the State government of Chiapas will continue to insist that these cases of persecution and displacement have been resolved.” The CCO estimates that there are at least 70 unresolved cases in the State of Chiapas, in addition to ongoing threats towards other communities. Representatives of the Los Llanos group and the CCO pointed out that the state government of Chiapas has failed to meet numerous self-imposed deadlines for restitutions to the victims, many of whom continue to live in homeless shelters, or prosecute any perpetrators for the forced displacement of Christians in Chiapas on religious grounds.
During a Senate confirmation hearing in Washington D.C. on July 15, Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson promised to address reports of widespread religious intolerance across Mexico if appointed as the next U.S ambassador. Three Senators, including Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio also wrote to Acting Ambassador Alejandro Estivill, asking that he investigate reports of forced displacement and religious persecution in Chiapas.
Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said “For far too many years, the plight of religious minority communities in Mexico has either gone unnoticed or been willfully ignored. It’s hard to imagine, but in the same country where so many Americans enjoy relaxed vacations on beautiful beaches, there are hundreds of men, women, and children living in homeless shelters simply because they were forced to choose between giving up their faith or giving up their homes. How has this gone on for decades without provoking any kind of serious reaction by the media or the Mexican government? We’re grateful to Senator Rubio and other leaders in Congress for finally raising this issue, and we call on the federal government of Mexico to act swiftly to resolve the open cases of displaced Protestant Christians and to immediately begin enforcing the rule of law in villages where Christians are routinely threatened with violence and evictions.”