A year after seven Christian families were forced from
their homes in a village in the western Mexican state of
Jalisco, the 30 Christians are currently being housed in a wine cellar.
their eviction on 26 January 2016, based on the results of a popular vote in
which almost 2,000 residents elected to evict them for religious reasons, they
have been surviving in various temporary shelters provided for them by the
state government. The wine cellar is the latest one, but offers extremely
limited space for 30 people to cook, eat and sleep.
Blanca Vázquez de la Rosa has vivid memories of the night she and her two
children (a nine-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy) were taken out of
their house and expelled from Tuxpan de Bolaños.
put us in the vans and abandoned us right there outside the village, at Las
Banderitas crossing, with nothing at all but the clothes we had on when they
came,” she says.
husband, Victor de la Cruz González, wasn’t at home when the indigenous chiefs
came to his house and took his family away.
was out working,” de la Rosa recalls. “He works at the school as a primary
teacher. He’s still there, he comes to see us when he has money… I just want us
to be together again.
has gone back to her village once, but had to leave almost immediately.
threw stones at the house where we were sleeping. They left holes in the door
and the roof,” she says.
big question is whether this vote was legal. The federal constitution
guarantees freedom of religion and human rights – you can’t just force someone
out of his home, for whatever reason, including religious reasons.”
far, the municipal and state authorities have failed to address the issue that
led to the expulsion of these families from their communities in the first
place. They had faced the threat of eviction for several years. In 2008, the
Baptist Convention of Guadalajara, the state capital, with help from the US
Baptist Convention, fought successfully for the families’ legal right to remain
in the village. But the village council later ruled that they must leave.
meetings have been organised in Guadalajara, but local authorities have never
attended. They claimed that 1,963 members of the community voted for the
charity Open Doors’ Latin America analyst Dennis Petri said this happened for
was because they are Christians, which the indigenous chiefs deemed
incompatible with their culture and religious traditions,” he said.
big question is whether [this vote was] legal. The indigenous chiefs claim it
was, since they have the authority, as protected by the federal constitution,
to govern based on their indigenous uses and customs. At the same time, the
federal constitution also guarantees freedom of religion and human rights – you
can’t just force someone out of his home, for whatever reason, including
religious reasons. This is what is at stake here: a conflict between
contradictory rights that need to be balanced.
state government does not know what to do because if it rules that the group
must return to their homes, they violate indigenous autonomy, but if they
don’t, they violate human rights and religious freedom. For this reason their
strategy is just to wait, trying to gain time, and probably hoping the group may
lose hope and just move on to somewhere else.”
of the families are fearful of returning home anyway and wish to be relocated.
Doors has suggested the town of Colotlán – around two hours from Bolaños – as
an option, but the families may lose their economic subsidies were they to move
the group lives in a shelter provided for by the state government, they receive
economic subsidies,” Petri explained. “The subsidy, which is really a very
small amount, is a compensation for the loss of income caused by their
the group would decide to move to somewhere else without the consent of the
state government, they would lose their subsidies because that would mean they
renounce the state’s support. Formally, the provided shelter and subsidies are
temporary, while the state tries to work out a solution.”
a Mexican priest has been found dead in the central state of Coahuila. Father
Joaquín Hernández Sifuentes, 42, had been missing since 3 January. On 12
January, the Diocese of Saltillo released a statement announcing that his body
had been found.
confirm with profound sadness that our brother Joaquín Hernández Sifuentes, a
diocesan priest for whom we tirelessly searched, with the great hope of finding
him alive, has gone on to the house of the eternal Father. This afternoon the
authorities reported he was found dead,” read a statement.
Joaquín, they have also taken from us a brother and a son. Rest in peace,
Father Joaquín Hernández Sifuentes.”
news agency Fides reported that two suspects have been
arrested in connection with the murder.
funeral mass took place yesterday (16 Jan) at Saltillo Cathedral.
trafficking has led to increased murder and kidnapping in Mexico, with priests
not unaffected,” reports the Catholic News Agency, which says 16 priests have been
murdered in the past four years.
related to organised crime is “perhaps the most significant threat to
Latin America’s Christians”, according to Open Doors’ Petri. This is
seen most clearly in Mexico and Colombia, which both feature in Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 50
countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian. Mexico is no.
41, Colombia no. 50.