A Protestant Christian woman has reportedly been tied to a tree and severely beaten by the leaders of her village in Hidalgo State, Mexico. The horrific attack left her in critical condition with serious internal injuries.
Religious persecution has been taking place in the area because the Catholic majority there has been trying for years to drive out minority Protestant neighbors or force them to engage in Catholic activities.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a persecution watchdog, reports Maria Concepcion Hernández Hernández, a member of the Great Commission Baptist Church in the community of Rancho Nuevo, Huejutla de los Reyes Municipality, is currently in intensive care. She is not permitted to receive visits from other villagers.
Hernández was attacked after she visited the acreage that she owns. A neighbor had asked her to remove two trees from the property.
Since 2015, the local authorities have prohibited members of the Protestant religious minority from accessing or using their land for cultivating crops, according to CSW.
Christian Solidarity has named the local leaders in Rancho Nuevo that are accused of perpetrating the attack. They include Benito Rocha, community leader Fermín Hernández Hernández, delegate Octaviano Gutierrez Hernández, Margarito Gutierrez Hernández, Francisco Wenses, and catechist Juan Hernández Hernández. They all belong to the Roman Catholic religious majority in the village.
No arrests have been made despite the assailants being named in complaints filed with the Hidalgo State Human Rights Commission and the Hidalgo State Prosecutor's Office, according to the watchdog.
When Pastor Rogelio Hernández Baltazar asked the police to stop the attack, he reportedly was also physically assaulted and detained by authorities for several hours.
Local village leaders demanded Baltazar hand over the deeds to ten plots of land belonging to members of the Baptist church. When the pastor refused to do so, the authorities threatened to take the documents by force and to confiscate the properties.
"The life of a woman hangs in the balance and a community is living in fear because, despite ample evidence of serious violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Rancho Nuevo for more than seven years, the Mexican authorities have failed to intervene. Instead, Hidalgo State government officials, under the previous governor, have for years publicly denied the existence of cases of religious intolerance in the state," noted CSW's Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl.
"We hold these authorities, alongside those directly involved in the attack, responsible for the events of 21 December," Stangl continued. "We call on Governor Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar to ensure that his administration takes swift action to bring to justice those responsible for this brutal attack and the ongoing threats against members of the religious minority in Rancho Nuevo."
"We urge Governor Menchaca Salazar to work closely with the state human rights commission and federal religious affairs officials to put in place policies that recognize the existence of serious FoRB violations in Hidalgo and develop effective and timely ways to address them in accordance with Mexico's legal protections for human rights," Stangl added.
According to CSW, Rancho Nuevo is an indigenous Nahuatl-speaking community that is governed under the Law of Uses and Customs. The Mexican constitution guarantees FoRB and other human rights to all citizens.
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.
CSW's research has shown that Hidalgo has one of the highest rates of religious intolerance cases in the country.
As CBN News reported in September of 2021, two Protestant Christian families were threatened by their neighbors after holding worship services in a home of a relative. The two families, who are members of the First Baptist Church in a nearby city, were threatened with their essential services being cut off.
For more information about CSW, click here.
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