Friday, July 24, 2009

The Persecuted Church: Chiapas, Mexico

Not far from the southern border of America is an area with which few Christians are familiar. Lying in the southwestern portion of Mexico is the State of Chiapas.

C
hiapas, Mexico has proven to be a conundrum in my online search for information. The amount of information is not the problem. It is the confusing mixture of conflicting data that causes me to have trouble assembling it and putting it into perspective regarding the persecution of Christians within its borders. When Chiapas is Googled, the first page is full of travel information, touting it as a place worthy of visiting, with pictures of beautiful waterfalls, quaint villages, and green mountains. One thing is clear, however: Protestant and evangelical Christians are persecuted there. Of this, there is no doubt.


The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) lists Chiapas Mexico as a "hostile" area. This means that local law enforcement attempts to provide protection for Christians, but Christians are often persecuted because of their witness. Religion statistics by VOM are not available for this region; however, they list Chiapas as a "mixture of Pagan, revolutionary and liberation theology" (The Persecuted Church Global Report). It is regularly stated by most agencies and statistician websites that the theology is predominately a mixture of Catholocism and ancient Mayan "syncretists". "Catholic/Mayan Syncretists" are those who have blended the rites of Catholicism and witchcraft into a religious form. They view evangelical Christians as a threat against their political, economical, and indigenous culture. The result is a lack of tolerance for those who bring outside influence into their communities.

The fact that the Catholic Church encourages this type of paganism by turning a blind eye to it is more than just disturbing. It begs the question, "why"? It is not my intention to offend anyone who adheres to Catholic theology. But the Catholic Church does more than just tolerate it. They also allow the Syncretist's pagan rituals to be performed within the confines of the church building (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XopnOQ-0qFs). There have also been reports from evangelical missionaries in Mexico of Catholic Priests who have at times encouraged their congregants to persecute those who are witnessing to Mexican Catholics (for more information on this, see Dana).

When the Spanish Conquistadors conquered Mexico, the indigenous people were forced into subjection to the Catholic Church. It was not until 1810 that it gained its independence from Spain and established itself as a republic in 1822. In 1917, a constitution was instituted. It took another 74 years for increased religious freedoms to be granted, but restrictions still apply. "For example, religious groups are required to gather only in their own buildings and church leaders are not permitted to criticize Mexico’s laws or authorities." (VOM)

"In the past several years, relations between evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church have improved but there continue to be conflicts. Protestants are sometimes viewed as a threat to Mexico because they are suspected of having ties with the United States. Evangelical Christians in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca have suffered attacks often provoked by Caciques, powerful community chieftains who practice 'traditionalist' religion, a semi-pagan mix of Roman Catholic beliefs and ancient Mayan religion. In late August 2008, a Christian family was attacked in Chiapas by neighbours who accused them of witchcraft. Three were killed and six seriously injured." (http://www.compassdirect.org/en/display.php?page=news&idelement=5567&lang=en&length=short&backpage=archives&critere=Chiapas,%20Mexico&countryname=&rowcur=0).

"In Oaxaca, four Christians were jailed in mid-November 2008 when they refused to participate or help pay for a festival that blended Catholicism and native religious beliefs." (VOM)

In November, 2003, a evangelical Pastor in Chiapas was assasinated. (http://www.compassdirect.org/en/display.php?page=news&idelement=2424&lang=en&length=short&backpage=archives&critere=Chiapas,%20Mexico&countryname=&rowcur=0

The following YouTube video provides an excellent, well-produced look into the persecution of evangelicals in Chiapas, Mexico: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-oGzG12XQI

In spite of what I see as misinformation about the wonderful tourism possibilities in Chiapas, Mexico that the web provides, the dark side of this State can also be glimpsed if one is willing to dig deep enough. We cannot blindly accept that all is well simply because a picture of a cascading waterfall and forest-covered mountains appear alluring. It is what is hidden within the hearts, minds, and souls of the people living there that should concern us. It is all too often that we refuse to believe a church that is recognized internationally as the "authority" of Christianity has buried within it a darkness that is hate-filled and oppressive. We must look beyond the exterior and into the heart of it.

I, along with The Voice of the Martyrs, Compass Direct News and others, ask that you remain in prayer for those who faithfully strive to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Chiapas, Mexico. As we lay our requests before God's throne, I pray they will be a fragrant incense to Him and that out of the faithfulness of those who remain bold in their witness, a great harvest will be presented to Him.




1 comment:

Em said...

This is scary stuff. I hear so much about Mexico. The missionaries from the Grace Brethren church were here not too long ago talking about how they deal a lot with Satanic cults downthere. There was a boy who had left the cult and started attending church with them and I guess they have a bounty on his head now. I'll definitely be in prayer for those people.