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Protestant Christians displaced from Coamila and Rancho Nuevo. Credit: CSW


Displaced Protestants pressured by government to accept illegal agreement

16 May 2024

Representatives of a group of more than 150 Protestant Christians forcibly displaced from their communities because of their religious beliefs on 26 April have complained that they are being pressured by government officials to sign an agreement that violates human rights protections under Mexican law.  

In a press conference held on 15 May, Pastor Rogelio Hernández Baltazar and church leader Nicolás Hernández Solórzano said that they do not want to accept an agreement pushed by the municipal government of Huetutla de los Reyes in Hidalgo State to resolve the situation. The agreement would allow the leaders responsible for the mass forced displacement from the villages of Coamila and Rancho Nuevo to fine the victims 150,000 Mexican Pesos (approximately £7,085 GBP), ban three families from returning, and permit the other families to return but with the same severe restrictions on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) that have been imposed on the religious minority group since 2015.  

The group, all of whom belong to the Great Commission Baptist Church, was initially sheltered in the Municipal Presidency building. They were subsequently moved to another location, where they say they have been dependent on humanitarian aid and food provided by local churches. The municipal government is no longer providing food or water to the group, which includes 75 children and infants, and the initial support that was provided was grossly insufficient to meet their needs.  

The total number of displaced Baptists has grown to over 150, with a number of individuals who were working outside the villages at the time of the displacement not permitted to return home.  

Human rights violations linked to FoRB have been ongoing and severe in the neighbouring villages of Coamila and Rancho Nuevo since 2015. Local authorities have repeatedly attempted to force members of the religious minority to participate in Roman Catholic religious festivals, including through financial donations, lighting candles and actively participating in acts of worship. Despite detailed documentation of the case dating back to 2015, the municipal government continues to deny that the incidents in Rancho Nuevo and Coamila are linked to FoRB.  

CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: ‘The position of the Huejutla de los Reyes Municipal Government is indefensible. By pushing this illegal agreement, they make themselves complicit in the ongoing, egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief in Coamila and Rancho Nuevo. This is unacceptable in a democratic country like Mexico which guarantees freedom of religion or belief for all in its constitution and the international human rights conventions to which it is party. We call on the Hidalgo State and federal governments to intervene as a matter of urgency and to make it clear that freedom of religion or belief extends to all, including in Huejutla de los Reyes Municipality, regardless of their ethno-linguistic identity and their religion or belief.’ 

Notes to Editors:  

  1. Rancho Nuevo and Coamila are indigenous Nahuatl-speaking communities that are governed under the Law of Uses and Customs. The Mexican constitution guarantees FoRB and other human rights to all citizens. However, in practice FoRB violations are common among indigenous communities governed under the Law of Uses and Customs. This law protects the right of indigenous communities to maintain their cultural and traditional methods of local governance with the caveat that it must be applied in line with human rights guarantees in the Mexican constitution and in the international conventions to which Mexico is party. However, the Mexican government on both the federal and state levels does little to ensure that these protections are upheld. As a result, in many communities a religious majority attempts to enforce religious uniformity with consequences ranging in severity for members of minorities who wish to practice a religion or belief of their choosing.  

  1. Women from Rancho Nuevo participated in CSW research that was used for Let Her Be Heard, a groundbreaking report on how indigenous women in Mexico experience FoRB violations, published in April 2022.  

  1. Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar took office in September 2022. Under the previous, six-year term of the previous governor of Hidalgo, Omar Fayad, government officials repeatedly and publicly denied the existence of any cases of religious intolerance in the state. CSW’s research has shown that it has one of the highest numbers of such cases in the country. 



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