A persecution watchdog group has said that local government authorities in a village in Mexico are threatening to kick out 158 Protestant Christians from their community, who have already faced years of persecution and forced starvation.
International Christian Concern reported that officials from the village of Mariano Matamoros have threatened the Protestant Christians in the small Chiapas community, giving them a deadline of November 30 to either reconvert back to Roman Catholicism, or face expulsion.
ICC Advocacy Director Isaac Six noted in a press release that Mexico has ignored rising tensions among religious communities in rural areas for decades.
"Thousands have been displaced and left homeless, simply because they belonged to a religious minority and refused to make financial contributions to religious festivals they did not believe in," Six added.
"For the State and Federal governments of Mexico to ignore this impending threat to more than two dozen families in Mariano Matamoros is egregious, and we call on authorities to take immediate action by publically denouncing the threat as unconstitutional, ordering local police forces to investigate these threats, and to prosecute those responsible for previous attacks on this small Protestant community."
Back in October, ICC reported that the same Christian families were left to starve, following government raids on their farmlands. The local officials have reportedly continued to target the Protestant community, which is a minority compared to the more widespread Catholicism.
Protestants in Mariano Matamoros have also been punished by village leaders who have been cutting off their water supply and sewage services.
Luis Herrera, director of the Coordination of Council of Christian Organizations, added that community delegates are threatening to expel the Christians in order to extract concessions from the Chiapas State government.
"According to Mr. Herrera, the community delegates of Mariano Matamoros have been demanding that the State Government of Chiapas construct a paved road that leads from Mariano Matamoros to larger cities in Chiapas since 2009. Village leaders have also asked the state government to pay a fine of 1.5 million pesos ($90,857 USD) to cover the fees that the Christians have failed to pay for refusing to participate in village festivals," the report stated.
Other persecution watchdog groups, such as Open Doors USA, have placed Mexico as 38th on its list of countries where Christians face the most persecution for their faith.
Open Doors states that as a whole, Christians are targeted by criminal organizations and drug cartels, and by indigenous traditional laws in the southern states, which make changing religious denomination hard.
In separate cases, such as one in June in Chichiltepec village in Hidalgo state, Christians were also reportedly threatened with death by a government official who was angry that they met to discuss religious persecution.