Apr 4, 2012

Intolerance in Chiapas and Oaxaca

La Jornada: (Original translation) It is not a new issue, but its resurgence is worrying. Cases of religious intolerance against evangelicals are occurring once again in Chiapas and Oaxaca, states with the highest portion of indigenous populations. Their persecutors are political and religious authorities. This is a dangerous partnership, because they do not value the freedom of belief and worship enacted by Benito Juárez, and indigenous man, on December 4, 1860.

According to the veteran reporter Isaín Mandujano, about one hundred families in the ejido (communal farm space) of Matamoros, in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza, were stripped of their land and animals and not allowed to bury their dead in the community cemetary because they publicly profess their religion to be other than that of Catholicism or Protestantism. He adds that about a thousand families’ lands were dispossessed and Catholics destroyed their fields and scattered their cattle (www.proceso.com.mx/?p=303135).

Those who have been stripped of their lands are indigenous Tzotil. They accuse Salomón Suárez Balcázar, president of the ejido, and local official Eduardo Belázquez Balcázar, of leading the hostilities against them. A delegation of the persecuted is in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the Chiapas capital, to demand the Secretariat for Religious Affairs fulfill its obligation to guarantee the free exercise of their beliefs by intervening and penalizing those who restrict that freedom. Will the authorities comply with those lawful obligations this time, or as in previous similar cases, lengthen the conflict?

In regards to Oaxaca, Elías Betanzos Luis, head of at least 400 congregations united by the Oaxaca Evangelical Unity Council, announced that 17 communities in the 415 municipalities which are governed by the system of laws and customs set up by the organization, have registered cases of serious religious intolerance (noted by Sofía Valdivia, Oaxaca a Diaro, 4/2).The Protestant leader explained that the higher incidences of intolerance against their coreligionists occurs in La Mixteca, the Sierra Norte, and now the coast.

The persecution against protestant indigenous populations is not widespread in the communities governed by custom. For the most part, as is clear from the testimony given by the leader of the Oaxaca Evangelical Unity Council, indigenous people of different faiths live together without aggression and respect the growing pluralization taking place in their villages. However, the number of cases in which evangelicals are harassed by threats of the closure of services, like water, or of expulsions should be more than enough to mobilize human rights organizations in order to demand respect for constitutional guarantees of those attacked. Or are the rights of indigenous evangelicals worth less?

It is time to abandon the habit of blaming the victims of persecution as the cause of their own suffering. The very conservative idea comfortably states that protestant Indians are the causes of their own misfortune, by converting to beliefs which differ from their traditional religion. This is deeply discriminatory and denies proper human rights to an important part of the Mexican population.

We can’t expect the conservative right to lift a finger to defend the freedom of belief for Protestant Indians. Their spirit and attitude of absolute submission to the will of the head of the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI, of making religious minorities invisible was fully and shamelessly on display in the recent visit by the pope to our country. There is historical continuity there: yesterday they adamantly opposed the removal of catholicism as the official religion of the Mexican state. Today, now that they can’t reverse historical gains in the decolonization of Mexico, they push the government to return some of the privileges they held in the past.

The left would do well ideologically, culturally, and politically to resurrect the liberal leftists of the nineteenth century. They were strong advocates for freedom of religion. None more so than the native Ignacio Manuel Altamirano (born in Tixtla, Guerrero). He often wrote newspaper articles (beginning in 1869) documenting cases of intolerance against indigenous protestants.

Altamirano was present when San José de Gracia (Mesones 139) was first opened up to Protestant worship. On April 23, 1871, Manuel Aguas, a former Dominican turned evangelical Christian, preached there. According to his account, the 1500 seats were not enough to accommodate the crowd that gathered to see the event. He said that the audience was composed of all classes, ages, and sexes: men, women, artisans, many indigenous people; everyone was gathered in a sense of true brotherhood, in the spirit of the Gospel (El Federalista, April 24, 1871, p.3). Indigenous people have played a historic role in the development of Protestantism on Mexican soil.

Why is the left hedging the right of Indians to exercise freedom of conscience and stigmatizing them when they choose an option other than Roman Catholicism? Spanish original

By: Carlos Martinez Garcia

Translation by Michael Kane, Americas Program

No comments:

Post a Comment