Evangelicals To Be Expelled from Town in Hidalgo, Mexico

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Roman Catholic town council decides to “end the evangelical religion” in San Nicolas.

by Elisabeth Isais

MEXICO CITY, October 4 (Compass) – About 150 evangelicals – 40 families – will be expelled from their homes in San Nicolas, Hidalgo state, at the end of October, according to a town council vote on Saturday, October 1.

Catholic officials in San Nicolas, near Ixmiquilpan, accused the evangelicals of refusing to cooperate in work projects, a charge Protestant leaders denied. The day after the expulsion decision, townspeople blocked access to property belonging to the Independent Christian Pentecostal Church. They forcibly took away tools and materials to be used for constructing a church building.

“The evangelicals have not done work projects and have not contributed anything to the community,” San Nicolas official Pablo Beltrán Ibarra told La Jornada newspaper on Sunday, October 2. The Rev. Pedro Olvera Rivera, national superintendent of the Independent Christian Pentecostal denomination, denied the frequent accusation that evangelicals have failed to participate in town projects.

He said evangelicals are leaders of the committee for community services and have been working hard in that capacity. Other Pentecostals in the town also emphatically denied Beltrán Ibarra’s accusation.

Reporter Carlos Camacho stated in the La Jornada article, “Of the population of 8,000 inhabitants, 70 percent consider themselves Catholics and have decided to end the evangelical religion.” A local Catholic priest has tried to persuade the town to practice religious freedom, once announcing through a loudspeaker, “We are all children of God,” but townspeople cut off the amplification as he spoke, according to the report.

Catholic town leader Noe Gerardo threatened reporters who were present that they would be burned and no longer allowed into San Nicolas if they repeated the priest’s message.

According to Rev. Olvera, Catholic authorities are considering removing the priest from San Nicolas. Meanwhile, government representatives are trying to deal with the problem of the probable expulsion of 150 people from their homes and property by the end of the month.

The Independent Christian Pentecostal Church was established in the town 21 years ago, according to Rev. Olvera. Religious persecution began there about 14 years ago when evangelicals’ water and electricity services were suspended. Five years ago, one believer was killed and the Bethel Temple was destroyed. Since then, the Pentecostals have been meeting in a home, more families have converted, and they had recently acquired the land to erect the church building.

Longtime hostilities erupted anew when Ponciano Rodriguez, an evangelical Christian, died last August 18, and Catholics refused to grant permission to bury him in the San Nicolas cemetery. In 1948 Rodriguez had been the chief instigator of a movement to expel two non-Catholic families from San Nicolas, but later he became a Pentecostal.

Hostilities in Chiapas

In the state of Chiapas, town leaders also have tried to ban evangelicals. Officials in San Antonio Las Rosas have decreed that only Catholics may live in the town.

Last July, three evangelicals were jailed for 24 hours in the town to try to force them to move out, according to Pastor Esdras Alonso Gonzalez, coordinator of religious affairs for San Cristóbal de las Casas. The three non-Catholics had to pay a fine of 1,000 pesos each ($93) to be freed, reported Christian lawyer Abdias Tovilla Jaime.

On September 25, local authorities cut the electricity to evangelical families, causing them to protest to the state and further angering the Catholics, said Pastor Alonso in the October 1 La Jornada.

An inter-religious council led by Tovilla is trying to mediate to avoid the expulsion of evangelicals.

Copyright 2005 Compass Direct