Two Christian families in Hidalgo, Mexico, have been threatened by their neighbors after holding worship services at a relative’s home.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, (CSW) reports that the two families, who are members of First Baptist Church in a nearby town, were threatened with the closure of their important services. Families may also be expelled from society if they do not pay the rest of the fines imposed as part of an extra-legal agreement in January 2020.
The threat to the families came during a meeting with local community leaders, who refused to let them speak in their defense.
Protestant families in this part of Mexico have had to live with constant stress for over two and a half years, after many were forced to sign an agreement renouncing their faith in January 2019. Eight families signed the agreement, but Cruz Hernández, Santiago Hernández and their wives, Maria Francisca Martínez Hernández and Angelina Martínez Hernández, refused to do so.
As a result of their refusal, their access to key services, including water, sewerage services, government benefit programs was blocked for more than a year until they were forced to sign an extrajudicial agreement renouncing their right to hold religious services, according to CSW.
Mexican government agencies paid part of the illegal fine of 57,700 Mexican pesos (approximately $ 2,905.30 in US dollars) levied on each family as part of the agreement. However, the families have continued to be threatened with forced relocation in several follow-up meetings during 2020 and 2021.
The amount of the fine is allegedly based on the costs to community leaders in their efforts to stop any investigations into crimes or human rights violations in connection with the case.
Extra-judicial agreements are often used in Mexico instead of appropriate legal mechanisms when the rights of religious minorities are violated. For the most part, these agreements tend to maintain the position of the majority and often offer further restrictions on religious and religious freedom; CSW reported.
The CSW says that if the governor of Hidalgo state refuses to intervene, it is up to the federal government to help these families.
“CSW calls on State Governor Hidalgo Omar Fayad Meneses and Ivan Huesca, Religion Director of Hidalgo, to intervene as soon as possible in La Mesa Limantitla,” said CSW Attorney General Anna-Lee Stangl. “If the state government refuses to protect the rights of religious minorities, the federal government must intervene.”
“The government, at both the state and federal levels, must address the culture of impunity that has allowed violations like these to go unchecked for far too long and ensure that families like Cruz Hernández and Santiago Hernández are free to practice any religion or belief. they choose without being forced to pay illegal fines or be pressured to give up their convictions under threat of criminal acts, including cuts to basic services and forced relocation, she added.
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