01/26/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on Sunday, January 22, the “Templo Solo Cristo Salva,” a house church based in Comitan de Dominguez, Chiapas, Mexico, had its electrical services cut off by the local town leadership. According to a report from the Coordinacion de Organizaciones Cristianas (COOC), the decision to terminate the electricity resulted from an assembly agreement by the town’s leaders approximately one week before the actual incident. The COOC noted that evangelical congregants and leaders are excluded by local leadership from attending town assemblies, claiming that the former have no right to participate in those meetings.
Incidents of a similar nature have affected the same municipality in the past, shedding light on a trend of discrimination against particular Christian minorities. In May of 2016, Juan Gabriel G., a resident of Comitan de Dominguez, was penalized by the local council, which halted the construction of a bathroom annex after they had learned that Gabriel converted to an evangelical denomination. At the time, Gabriel was receiving federal aid through a public works program to subsidize the bathroom construction. COOC reports that municipal agents ordered local residents to enter into Gabriel’s home and collect construction materials. Residents not only removed private property from the home, but also dismantled portions of the construction. Subsequently, the municipal agents cut off electrical services to Gabriel’s home.
Appeals and requests have been made to the state authorities to intervene and remedy the situation, but concrete action has not been taken to address the problems of religious discrimination in the Comitan de Dominguez community. COOC reports that the federal government has offered to cover the cost of any local fines or penalties imposed on the affected individuals, in the hopes that this will at least prompt municipal leaders to refrain from targeting evangelical minorities.
Rafael Cardona, ICC’s Latin America Correspondent, stated, “ICC is very troubled to hear about the continuing discrimination against Christian minorities in southern Mexico. It is especially alarming when citizens are deprived of basic living standards due to their religious identity. The Mexican constitution clearly protects freedom of religion, not to mention that religious discrimination is now a punishable offense in Mexico. The fact that the federal government has offered to pay for fines and penalties is a sign of progress. Nevertheless, municipal agents and local leaders have to realize that discrimination on religious grounds is a serious matter. Mexico’s culture of impunity only serves to accentuate and promote a vicious cycle of discriminatory violations against the fundamental rights of Christian minorities.”