Officials in one Mexican village have turned off the water and electric services for more than two dozen Protestant families for refusing to contribute financially to the local festivities being assembled by the “traditionalist Catholic” members of the community, according to a new report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA.
The conflict is just the latest between factions of Catholics and Protestants in the rural regions of Mexico, where as early as nearly 10 years ago a similar fight erupted.
In the latest, according to this week’s report from CSW, “Traditionalist Catholic village authorities are demanding 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 $38) 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,” CSW said.
The 25 Protestant families lost their water supply, and two days later, their electricity, the report of CSW, dated Thursday, said.
The families “have effectively been put under house arrest” for their refusal to pay, the report said.
“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,” the report about the developing conflict in the state of Chiapas said.
CSW said it’s not the first time conflict has developed between religious factions in Mexico.
Beginning in 2010, a local village assembly blocked access to firewood for a group of Protestant Christians in La Trinitaria Municipality, also in Chiapas state.
An activist, Luis Antonio Herrera, told CSW the Mexican Constitution provides that people cannot be forced to take part in festivals or ceremonies for religions to which they do not belong.
Jorge Lee Galindo, director of Impulso 18, which is a national partner organization working with CSW, said, “Unfortunately, this case is not atypical in Chiapas, where village authorities regularly attempt to impose the majority religion on all inhabitants of the village.
“Crimes like this take place with impunity, contributing to a worsening of the situation as can be seen in this case,” he continued, “State authorities should intervene in the early stages to prevent increasing violations of human rights, and those responsible for criminal acts must be held accountable in a court of law.”
Mervin Thomas, chief executive of CSW, called on the state government to take action to protect peoples’ rights.
“It is unacceptable that access to electricity and water be used as a tool to enforce religious belief in a modern democracy with constitutional protections for religious freedom,” he said. “We are also concerned that without swift action on the part of government officials … the situation could deteriorate further and lead to violence.”