By the editor, Morningstar News
Traditionalist Catholics abducted, jailed and beat a group of evangelical Christians with rods and stones in Oaxaca, Mexico last week on orders from the head of a municipality, according to human rights officials.
A mob sent by San Juan Ozolotepec President Pedro Cruz Gonzalez on Nov. 4 attacked the Christians for declining to participate in and help pay for Traditionalist Catholic festivals and for protesting their previous mistreatment. The mob attacked the Christian’s unfinished church structure with sledgehammers and pick-axes, and four of the Christians were jailed from Tuesday until Friday (Nov. 5 to Nov. 8), according to the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR).
“On Nov. 4, the head of the city ordered the demolishing of their temple, the lynching, incarceration and torture of the followers of the religious congregation,” the NCHR stated in a release on Friday.
News service Agencia JM reported that Alfredo Alonso, along with his brothers Raymundo Alonso and Aquiles Alonso, managed to escape from the mob sent to kill the Christians. Afredo Alonso said Cruz Gonzalez had led townsfolk to hate those who are not Traditionalist Catholics, who practice a blend of Catholic and indigenous rites that evangelicals say involves drunkenness, revelry and idol worship.
Alonso family members were among those targeted for objecting to the town boss’s April 2011 order to halt construction of the independent Pentecostal church building, which had begun in 2010; Cruz Gonzales threatened to expel them and other Christians, forbade them from accessing government food aid programs and blocked them from the public market to buy staple items, according to Agencia JM.
“By the work of God we are still alive, because they beat us with all fury, even using iron rods and stones, and they threatened to burn us just for wanting to help our family members, who are victims of abuse of authority by the intolerant municipal president,” Alfredo Alonso told Agencia JM.
Alonso’s son, Leopoldo Alonso, the pastor of the attacked church, was jailed and beaten along with Manuel Martínez Silva, Miguel Silva Reyes y Placido Aragón before state officials helped free them. The undersecretary of Political Development of the Secretary General of Interior, José Silva, said the Christians were freed after state officials warned Cruz Gonzales of possible criminal charges against him, according to Milenio news portal.
The state Attorney General’s office examined the four Christians after their release and confirmed that they had been beaten in jail.
Traditionalist Catholics in remote areas have long invoked Mexico’s “Law of Uses and Customs” – designed to protect the rights of indigenous communities to practice native rites – to force their practices on people of minority faiths. Christians declining to participate in the Traditionalist Catholic festivals have been threatened, attacked and economically deprived in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Hidalgo and Puebla.
Conflict between the “uses and customs” law and freedom of religion as enshrined in the Mexican Constitution, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), “has allowed local authorities to violate the rights of members of the local communities with impunity. In addition, the Mexican government’s aversion to involving itself in religious issues has allowed such situations to escalate.”
In May church members had called for state intervention after Cruz Gonzalez threatened to burn them and throw their bodies into a canyon if they did not renounce their faith, according to CSW. In July, the town president jailed church member Vicente Aragon Hernandez for speaking out against his threats against Christians.
After last week’s attack in San Juan Ozolotepec, in Miahuatlan District, authorities finally intervened. In an effort to keep state officials and police out, the president’s mob had placed a roadblock on the route leading into the town, permitting only area residents in, according to Agencia JM.
Relatives of the attacked Christians have vowed to file a criminal complaint against the president for deprivation of liberty, kidnapping and intent to commit murder, besides leaving them wounded and, for the family of Leopoldo Alonso, homeless; locking them out of their home, the president had reportedly ordered them expelled from their land.
The San Juan Ozolotepec congregation is a mission plant from an independent Pentecostal church pastored by Sergio Aquino Domínguez, who reportedly helped enlist state help and has sought protective measures for Leopoldo Alonso’s family.
Writing in El Occidental, columnist Armando Maya Castro called the anti-Christian aggression reprehensible, “even more so when the Secretary of Interior, instead of favoring the application of the law, signals that in our country religious intolerance is nearly non-existent. It is also exasperating that when in some of its interventions they propose the route of dialogue and conciliation, impeding the application of the rigor of law to the authors of crimes.”
© 2013 Morning Star News.