Home Christian News Baptist Woman in Mexico Near Death After Alleged Beating by Catholic Leaders

Baptist Woman in Mexico Near Death After Alleged Beating by Catholic Leaders

Mexico attack
Hidalgo state in Mexico. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

HIDALGO, Mexico (BP) – A Baptist woman is hospitalized in critical condition after a beating tied to unjustly applied local customs and laws in an indigenous Catholic community in Mexico, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported.

Catholic leaders are accused of severely beating Maria Concepcion Hernández Hernández because of her Baptist faith.

Hernández Hernández, a member of the Great Commission Baptist Church in the majority Catholic community of Rancho Nuevo, was not expected to live after the leaders tied her to a tree and severely beat her Dec. 21, Anna-Lee Stangl, CSW joint head of advocacy, told Baptist Press Jan. 5. Hernández Hernández’s pastor, Rogelio Hernández Baltazar, was beaten and detained when he intervened, CSW reported, referencing local sources.

The beatings allegedly stemmed from a dual legal system in Mexico that allows local indigenous communities to govern based on customs that vary by village, Stangl said, known as the Law on Uses and Customs.

“Some of these villages interpret that as, they can mandate what everyone in their village believes and practices,” Stangl said of the uses and customs laws. “The law actually says that it has to be operated in accordance with the constitution and human rights protections. But in practice, the government very rarely intervenes to make sure that that’s done.”

Since 2015, the indigenous community has prohibited Protestants and other religious minority landowners from accessing their land or cultivating crops. Among the 450 residents of the village, about 160 are members of the Baptist church, CSW told Baptist Press.

“The Baptist church has been growing even in the midst of the aggressions,” CSW quoted a source.

The U.S. Department of State, in is 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom; the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its 2017 Annual Report; and persecution watchdog Open Doors International, in its 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, have all reported that customs and use laws have led to the persecution of religious minorities.

Persecution from customs and use laws is more common in isolated communities with large indigenous populations, Stangl said, particularly Hidalgo, Guerrero, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla and Michoacán.

CSW has asked Southern Baptists to pray for the communities and advocate with U.S. congressional leaders for intervention.

“This case is really typical in that it’s been going on for at least seven years,” Stangl said of the Rancho Nuevo case. “It began with the village taking away the basic rights of the Protestants and telling them they couldn’t vote anymore, they could no longer access medical services. In 2018 they forbade their children from attending the local school, which is a public school. Then it escalated to what we saw on the 21st of December.”

Hernández Hernández was attacked when she visited a plot of land she owns after a neighbor asked her to remove two trees, CSW reported, a move that might have been designed to intentionally draw Hernández Hernández to her attackers.