April 15th was not an ordinary day for a group of displaced Mexican Christians. It was a day of joy, answered prayers and finally going home. Five years ago, their community expelled them for being Christians. Now, this group of 12 families is finally being allowed to return to their homes.
For the past five years, this group of believers has been fighting for their rights as they desperately wanted to return to their community. This year, the group, government and community reached an agreement, and they were allowed to return to their communities.
These displaced Christians are part of the Bawitz community in Chiapas, Mexico. Their problems began in 2009 when 12 families came to faith in Christ. To be indigenous in Mexico is to follow the traditional Roman Catholic beliefs. This faith, often mixed with modern paganism and mysticism, is the only acceptable standard. Soon after the families converted to Christianity, the entire town turned against them and began to persecute them. The leaders of the community cut off the families’ access to water and electricity. The believers weren’t even allowed to bury their dead in the village. They were also fined for leaving the Roman Catholic Church. In the end, the families were driven off of their land completely.
They found shelter at a church in a city called Comitán where a pastor graciously provided space for them to live. Open Doors has been a part of these aid efforts for the group during the last five years as representatives of the group continued to fight for their rights with the government. Although the situation seemed hopeless, the group kept on fighting for justice. Eventually, several meetings were arranged in which they discussed their rights with the government and the local community. These meetings had amazing results, and on April 15th, all three parties signed a mutual agreement. After a long struggle, these families returned to their homes.
Life can never go back to the way things used to be and the struggle is not over for them. Their homes have been abandoned for several years. The uncultivated soil needs preparation for planting, homes need repair work, and perhaps the most challenging trial is healing the breach in relationships where hate brought about displacement and division five years ago.
For now, their return is an important milestone, and it has brought the families overflowing joy. “We have confidence that despite all the pending uncertainties about our return, God is faithful and He will continue to help us and our community to get along well so we might work together as a community,” says one of the Christians.
The case of the 12 displaced families is not a unique story. In Chiapas, a region in the south of Mexico, indigenous Christians are frequently displaced by their communities. These communities are nearly 100 percent Roman Catholic; all their customs and habits center around their beliefs and are often mixed with mysticism. People who leave the traditional faith are seen as traitors and face persecution.
Father, we pray for the Bawitz community; that Your peace will flow through the town like a river. We pray for these Christian families as they transition through the challenges of entering back into community life in new ways, and we are thankful that You are preparing the way and filling them with wisdom and direction. We pray for other indigenous Christians in Mexico who have been forcibly expelled from their communities, praying for Your sustaining power to keep them in this time of uncertainty. And we lift before You the citizens of the Bawitz community who do not know You. We pray that You will redeem them and bring restoration to the community so that Christ will be glorified in their midst. We pray in the Name of Jesus who is gathering His church in Mexico and in all nations of the world, Amen.