"In accordance with the agreement arranged by state officials, these Protestants from Buenavista Bahuitz village on Jan. 20 tried to return to their community after syncretistic Catholics expelled them in 2012 for their faith. When the Protestants and Chiapas officials accompanying them reached Buenavista Bahuitz, community leaders again refused entry until the Protestants convert to Catholicism, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
"'Traditionalist" Catholics of the village who practice a blend of Roman Catholicism and indigenous customs involving drunken festivals have been at odds with the Protestant minority for years. Local authorities who are such syncretistic Catholics told them they could come back to their property only if they became Catholic and took part in their religious activities, including paying for the costly celebrations that involve large amounts of alcohol.
"In November those expelled from Buenavista Bahuitz together with other forcibly displaced Protestants from other Chiapas communities protested their plight with a peaceful sit-in at the state government building in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital. After state government officials gave the Protestants verbal commitments to address their concerns, the displaced ended their month-long action on Dec. 1.
"Chiapas officials had assured the displaced group that they had negotiated their return, said Luis Herrera, director of the Coordination of Christian Organizations of Chiapas (COOC), in a CSW statement. The officials had told these evangelical Christians their freedom of religion would be protected.
"But when the evangelicals and state officials arrived in the village by bus Jan. 20, Buenavista Bahuitz leaders told the former residents that they must convert to Catholicism in order to stay. When surprised state officials then intervened with the village leaders, the syncretistic Catholics at last offered to allow the evangelicals to stay if they paid a high fine..."