A year after extreme violence barred them from returning home, a group of Mexican Protestants is still waiting for the government to address their request for relocation, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The group of 35 people, including small children, was forcibly displaced from their home in Las Llanos in January 2010 after village authorities burned their church and ordered them to convert to Catholicism.
“It is unacceptable, not only that the government failed at every step to defend the religious freedom of the Los Llanos displaced community, but has allowed four and a half years to go by without seeking any resolution to the case,” said Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s chief executive.
The group lived for three and a half years as internally displaced persons, waiting for government action. The National Commission for Human Rights investigated the case in 2011, finding that their rights had been violated and recommending the government allow them to return to their homes.
The Chiapas State Government never took action, and the refugees attempted to return home on their own in June 2013. They were met with roadblocks and a violent mob, which held them against their will, doused them with gasoline, and threatened to burn them alive. Officials intervened and negotiated their release, but never filed criminal charges against their persecutors.
“If the government of Chiapas is unwilling or unable to [intervene], the federal government must intervene to ensure that religious freedom, as guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution, is upheld for all citizens both Catholic and Protestant,” Thomas told Christianity Today Australia in 2013. “A culture of impunity will only feed into the cycle of violence and intolerance. The government must make it clear that there is no place for criminal acts in the name of religion in modern Mexico.”
After last year’s attempt to return home, the Protestants told CSW they did not believe it would be possible for them to return and requested the government relocate them. The group currently lives in a communal housing arrangement with basic conditions on the property of a local church.
Members of the group told CSW they were disappointed at the government’s failure to take action to defend their rights. According to local activists, the government officials have told the group it may take at least another eight months to get them into a new home.