Mexico Villagers’ Electricity and Water Restored
ICC Note: According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 27 families in the Mexican state of Chiapas will regain access to water and electrical facilities after being denied for two years. These families, who are all Christians, have been denied electricity and clean water since February of 2014 after refusing to participate in local Roman Catholic festivals. The restoration of these basic services took place as part of an agreement among local authorities and lawyers supporting the victims, meant to guarantee the religious freedom of all villagers.
02/23/2016 Mexico (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) – Twenty-seven families in the state of Chiapas will have their access to water and electricity restored after two years after local authorities agreed to respect religious freedom in the village of Unión Juárez, Trinitaria Municipality. The families, all Protestants, have been living without access to clean water or electricity since February 2014 because of their refusal to contribute to or participate in Roman Catholic festivals.
According to Luis Herrera of the Coordination of Christian Organisations (COOC), an agreement “which includes respect for beliefs, as well as the obligations of villagers, as long as these do not include participation in or contributions to religious festivals” was signed by local authorities on 19 February, in a process overseen by two lawyers who were supporting the victims.
COOC had repeatedly called for state government intervention, especially after many of the victims began to manifest serious health problems because of their lack of access to clean water. In September 2015, village leaders blocked three of the Protestant villagers from entering the village, citing a curfew and other restrictions placed on the movement of Protestants in the village. The men also reported that their mobile phone and cash were stolen, and one of the men was arbitrarily detained for 24 hours.
Despite these positive developments in Union Juarez, a number of other cases in Chiapas State, many of which involve forced displacement, remain unaddressed. Last week, village leaders in Yashtinín, San Cristóbal de las Casas Municipality, refused to allow the burial of an elderly Protestant man who was killed after being hit by a motorcycle.
ICC Note: Some twenty-five Protestant families in Southern Mexico have had the water and electricity to their homes cut off and have been placed under virtual house arrest. The families’ refusal to participate in the traditional ceremonies of the Catholic Church has drawn the anger from village authorities for refusing to participate and fund the celebrations. A similar situation occurred in the same state in 2010 again targeting Protestant Christians.
02/27/2014 Mexico (CSW) – Twenty-five Protestant families have had their water and electricity supplies disconnected and have effectively been put under house arrest in Mexico because of their refusal to participate in Traditionalist Catholic religious ceremonies.
On 11 February, village authorities cut off the Protestant families’ water supply. Two days later, their electricity supply was also disconnected and chains, ropes and civilian guards were placed around the families’ homes in order to further isolate them. Also on 11 February, one member of the group was arbitrarily detained by village authorities and imprisoned for more than 24 hours after he attempted to reconnect his water while under the supervision of state officials and police. Village authorities in Unión Juárez, located in La Trinitaria municipality in the state of Chiapas also detained the police officers for ten hours.
Traditionalist Catholic village authorities are demanding that the families, who belong to the local Mount Tabor Evangelical Church, contribute financially to religious festivals and have said they will not permit the families to reconnect their services or receive visitors until they pay 500 pesos (approximately £23) each. The village authorities are justifying their actions as in line with the Law of Uses and Customs, which gives indigenous populations autonomy to exercise traditional forms of justice and to protect their culture.
The situation follows an escalation of discriminatory behaviour towards the group of Protestant Christians in La Trinitaria Municipality in Chiapas state, beginning in 2010, when the local village assembly blocked their access to firewood and refused them permission to attend or participate in village assembly meetings.
According to Luis Antonio Herrera, a local activist representing the victims, the families have pointed out that under the Mexican Constitution they cannot legally be forced to be involved in festivals or ceremonies linked to religions to which they do not ascribe. The victims have filed a complaint with the National Commission for Human Rights.