From the Christian Post, January 10, 2023. Please pray for this sister-in-Christ and the persecution of believers in Mexico.
A Christian woman who suffered severe internal injuries after being tied to a tree and beaten by traditionalist Catholic elders in her village in Mexico’s Hidalgo State is now hospitalized in critical condition. Police have made no arrests, according to a report.
The victim, identified as Maria Concepcion Hernández Hernández from the Great Commission Baptist Church in the community of Rancho Nuevo in Huejutla de los Reyes Municipality, was attacked on Dec. 21 by a group of people, all belonging to the Roman Catholic majority in the village, the U.K.-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported last week.
Immediately before the attack, the bells of the local Roman Catholic church were ringing, CSW continued.
She was visiting her land as a neighbor had asked her to remove two trees because the local authorities had prohibited members of the religious minority from accessing or using their land for cultivating crops, the group said.
The pastor of the woman’s church, Rogelio Hernández Baltazar, was also detained for two hours after he sought to intervene to stop the attack, and threatened by the same authorities who declared they will not allow the victim’s body to be buried in the village if she does not recover from her injuries.
The pastor and other villagers are prohibited from meeting her, the group said, adding that no arrests had been made despite complaints having been filed with the Hidalgo State Human Rights Commission and the Hidalgo State Prosecutor’s Office.
The attackers have been identified as Benito Rocha, Fermín Hernández Hernández, Octaviano Gutierrez Hernández, Margarito Gutierrez Hernández, Francisco Wenses, and catechist Juan Hernández Hernández.
“The life of a woman hangs in the balance and a community is living in fear because, despite ample evidence of serious violations of freedom of religion or belief in Rancho Nuevo for more than seven years, the Mexican authorities have failed to intervene,” CSW’s Head of Advocacy, Anna Lee Stangl, said.
“Instead, Hidalgo State government officials, under the previous governor, have for years publicly denied the existence of cases of religious intolerance in the state,” Stangl continued.
This is not a one-off incident of Christian persecution in Mexico, which has risen due to drug cartel violence, persecution by traditionalist Catholics and violent discrimination by anti-Christian left-wing groups, Open Doors USA previously reported.
“In rural indigenous communities, anyone who turns away from traditional religious beliefs can face rejection and punishment in the form of fines, imprisonment, and forced displacement. Non-discrimination laws mean that any links between Christian faith and politics are placed under very strict legal scrutiny,” says the ministry on its website.
Unlike Christianity, traditionalist Catholicism relies on giving gifts to pagan gods in exchange for health, good fortune and protection from evil. They often participate in animal sacrifices to the gods and worship saints, incorporating practices from pagan Aztec beliefs.
“In areas controlled by criminal groups or drug cartels, young men are exposed to indoctrination and forced recruitment. Those who do not accept it — for reasons of Christian faith or otherwise — face threats, potential abduction and even death,” says Open Doors USA.
“Families, too, are bribed and intimidated to force their children to obey the gangs. Church leaders are often victims of extortion because they are assumed to have access to church funds. Mexico also has the highest rate of human trafficking in the world, and women are easy targets for illegal armed groups to recruit or abduct.”
Last May, 16 indigenous Protestant Christian families in the southern state of Chiapas were pressured to pay illegal fines for the fourth consecutive year for not participating in a syncretic Roman Catholic festival that involves alcohol, CSW reported at the time.
In September 2021, two evangelical families from the First Baptist Church in the La Mesa Limantitla area in Hidalgo state’s Huejutla de los Reyes Municipality were threatened with being cut off from essential services or expelled from the community if they continued to refuse to deny their faith and pay a fine illegally levied against them, CSW reported at the time.