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RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

IN MEXICO

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Religion in Mexico:

Mexico is a country with incredible problems, including massive poverty; restricted human rights; political corruption; wife abuse and murder; discrimination, repression, and marginalization of the indigenous population; military attacks on civilians; regular use of torture by the police; random extermination of homosexuals; forced sterilizations; the presence of 130,000 street children, etc.

According to a Human Rights Practices report by the U.S. State Department:

"The Constitution [of Mexico] provides for freedom of religion, and Congress may not enact laws that establish or prohibit any religion. The Government generally respects this right in practice; however, there are some restrictions at the local level. State and municipal governments generally protect this right; however, some local officials infringe on religious freedom, especially in the south. In 1998 the Government and representatives of many religious denominations signed a religious code of conduct that reaffirms freedom of religion. The law bars the clergy from holding public office, advocating partisan political views, supporting political candidates, or opposing the laws or institutions of the State." 1

According to a U.S. State Department report on Religious Freedom for 1999:

bulletRoman Catholics form 89% of the population, although many actually follow a syncretistic religion that combines Catholicism with ancient Mayan or other Aboriginal beliefs.
bulletProtestants form about 3.7%. This mainly includes members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses.
bulletAbout 0.3% are Jewish.
bulletNon-Christian groups form about 2% of the population.
bulletThose of no religious affiliation number about 3%. 2

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Church and state in Mexico:

The European invasion by Spanish Conquistadors in the early 16th century killed many natives in what is now Mexico, and resulted in the forced religious conversion of most of the survivors to Roman Catholicism. After Mexico became self-governing in 1810, liberals accused the Roman Catholic church of opposing social change and supporting dictators. The 1857 and 1917 Mexican constitutions went beyond separation of church and state and actually oppressed the Church. They prohibited the church from owning property, outlawed public religious ceremonies, closed Catholic schools and banned religious education in the country.

A revolution in 1910 was followed by a brutal religious war by Catholic peasants called the Cristero Rebellion (1926-29). Tens of thousands died. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took over the federal government. For many decades, the church stayed out of politics and avoided criticizing the government. It was only during the 1980s that priests began to speak out against human rights abuses, government repression, electoral fraud and in favor of socioeconomic justice. 3 In the early 1990s, the PRI began to relax its anti-clerical laws. It permitted nuns and priests to vote, allowed public religious services, and tolerated priests and nuns wearing religious garb.

After 71 years in power, the PRI was voted out of office in 2000-JUL. The center-right National Action Party (PAN), under Vicente Fox, took over. The Catholic Church played a major role in the defeat of the PRI. They stated that any voter who refused to vote was committing a moral sin. In a pastoral letter of 2000-MAR, a bishops called for "a reformulation of the whole political system." He added, "If power does not change hands, there is no democratic transition." 1

"Religious groups cannot operate legally without registering as religious associations with the Undersecretariat of Religious Affairs of the Federal Secretariat of Government. Although the Government does reject a few applications, usually due to incomplete documentation, the registration process is routine." 1

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Harassment and violence against Protestants:

According to the State Department report for the year 2001:

"There were incidents of violence between religious groups in Chiapas [state] during...[2001]. The situation in Chiapas is a result of a complex mix of economic, ethnic, political, and religious tensions. There is a history of religious intolerance in, and expulsions from, certain indigenous communities whose residents follow syncretistic (Catholic / Mayan) religious practices and view other religious practices as a threat to indigenous culture..." 1

The report continues:

"There is a history of religious intolerance in, and expulsions from, certain indigenous communities whose residents follow syncretistic (Catholic/Mayan) religious practices and view other religious practices as a threat to indigenous culture. In parts of Chiapas, local leaders of indigenous communities sometimes regard evangelical groups as unwelcome outside influences and potential economic and political threats. As a result, these leaders sometimes acquiesced in, or actually ordered, the harassment or expulsion of individuals belonging primarily, but not exclusively, to Protestant evangelical groups. In many cases, these expulsions involved the burning of homes and crops, beatings, and, occasionally, killings. On several occasions, village officials temporarily detained Evangelicals for resisting participation in community festivals. The abuse related to these and other incidents apparently did not occur solely and exclusively on the basis of religion. While religious differences were often a prominent feature of such incidents, ethnic differences, land disputes, and struggles over local political and economic power were most often the basic cause of the problems."

"There were reports of conflict between Catholic/Mayan syncretists and Protestant evangelicals in Chiapas. For example in late January, local leaders expelled 150 Protestant evangelicals from their homes in Justo Sierra, Chiapas; and beat several men, according to the Evangelical Commission for the Defense of Human Rights (CEDEH). A formal complaint was filed with the state prosecutor's office in Comitan, and on June 27, state judicial police arrested three community officials. On November 25, 27 families returned to their homes accompanied by Governor Salazar, who had mediated talks between the 2 sides; the 3 community officials also were released and returned home."

"Tension between Catholic/Mayan syncretists and evangelical groups continues to be a problem in the municipality of San Juan Chamula. In 2000 CEDEH claimed that municipal authorities had expelled 30,000 persons in the 30 years. However, this report was not confirmed, and a representative from the CNDH told the press on April 19 that there are no official statistics on the displaced. Approximately 130 children of evangelicals have been denied access to the local public schools in 6 communities since 1994."

"On April 12, in the community of San Nicolas, Ixmiquilpan municipality, Hidalgo, more than 30 Protestant Evangelical families were threatened by a local official with expulsion by June 18, if they did not contribute money and cement blocks to a community celebration. On August 22, the state governor and the Secretariat of Government's Undersecretary for Religious Affairs convened a meeting with evangelical representatives and town leaders and negotiated an agreement between the parties. Water service to the evangelical families, disrupted for months by local leaders, was restored in late August."

"The Adventist Church reported that individuals in the communities of Vicente Guerrero and Juan Sabines have complained that the opening of an Adventist church in neighboring Francisco I. Madero, Tecapatan municipality, would violate local 'practices and customs.' In March Francisco I. Madero residents requested local government assistance in relieving tension among the communities and convincing the neighboring communities of the Adventists' right to use their place of worship. This report could not be confirmed. In Chiapas the Adventists viewed the local government as reluctant to intervene in towns governed by traditional 'practices and customs.' "

"In May four other incidents of intolerance were reported, three in Chiapas and one in Puebla state. In two Chiapas communities, Protestant evangelicals reportedly were detained by community members for failing to make financial donations in support of the syncretistic Catholic celebration of Santa Cruz. Adventists in Tapachula were accused of playing loud music in front of Catholic churches while Mass was being conducted, allegedly infringing upon the rights of their neighbors to unimpeded worship. Finally, in a Puebla community, an Adventist pastor was threatened while proselytizing." 1

BaptistFire maintains a collections of news items about persecution of Protestants in Mexico. 4

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Sponsored link:

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Killing of "Witches:"

Definitions of terms:

The terms "Witch" and "Witchcraft" have six main unrelated meanings, and many additional lesser-used meanings.

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In North America, "Witch" and "Witchcraft" most often refer to a Wiccan and the religion of Wicca. Wicca is a gentle, benign, healing religion which is was recently created from ancient Celtic beliefs, practices, holy days and symbols. Wiccans / Witches are prohibited by the Wiccan Rede from harming, manipulating, dominating or controlling others.

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Among Aboriginal people in Africa, Asia, South America, and elsewhere, "Witch" refers to an evil sorcerer who is dedicated to killing, harming, manipulating, dominating or controlling others.

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These two meanings are, in many ways, opposites. Unfortunately, they are often confused.

Many residents of Mexico -- especially in the southern state of Chiapas -- follow a syncretistic religion that combines Roman Catholicism with ancient Mayan and other Aboriginal beliefs. The latter date from the pre-Hispanic era, and include a fear of "witches."

bulletTheir fear is shared with many Aboriginal people worldwide.
bulletIt is similar to the panic within European Christianity during the burning times circa 1490 to 1792 CE when the Church and civil courts hunted down "witches," tried them, and burned them alive.
bulletFear of this type of witch caused the witchcraft panic in Salem, MA over three centuries ago.
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The term "witchcraft" that is sometimes found in English translations of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) refers to (mostly) women who used spoken curses to injure other people or destroy their property.

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The term, "witchcraft" that appears in some English translations of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) refers to murderers who use poisons to kill people.

During the 1990s, as many as twelve men in Chiapas state were thought to be witches and were hacked to death with machetes. In 1996, a mob beat and hanged a man that they accused of capturing his victims souls, trapping them in bottles and hiding them in a cave. Diego Hernandez Lopez was believed to be a witch by the residents of the nearby Indian village of San Juan Chamula. On 2002-SEP-14, gunmen burst into his home and shot seven adults and two children. Five adults died in the attack. Two children, one seven months old and the other two years old, were injured. 5,6

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Related essays on this web site:

bulletWhat the Bible says about Wicca and witchcraft
bulletWitchcraft in Africa and Asia
bulletAre all witches equal? The Harry Potter books, and confusion about "witches" & "witchcraft"

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References:

  1. "Mexico: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," U.S. Department of State, 2002-MAR-4, at:  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/wha/8320.htm
  2. "U.S. Department of State: Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999: Mexico," 1999-SEP-9, at: http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/
  3. John Ward Anderson and Garance Burke, "Mexican Church Sheds Cloak of Political Silence: Bishops Assail Enshrined Practices," Washington Post, 2000-MAY-14, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/
  4. "Persecution in Mexico," BaptistFire.com, at: http://www.baptistfire.com/articles/
  5. "Alleged witchcraft practitioner, 3 others killed by Mexican gunmen," Associated Press, 2002-SEP-16, at: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/
  6. "4 fatally shot in attack on alleged witch," Associated Press, 2002-SEP-17, at: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious intolerance > Worldwide > here

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Copyright 2002 & 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-SEP
Latest update: 2003-JAN-8
Author: B.A. Robinson

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