Two families from a Christian church in La Mesa Limantitla of Huejutla de los Reyes Municipality in Hidalgo, Mexico reportedly lost their water and other essential services after they held worship services in a relative's home.
According to CBN News, the two families--the Hernandezes--from the First Baptist Church of Hidalgo, Mexico were threatened by neighbors that their essential services will be cut off after they held worship services in the home of their relative, Bartolo Martinez Hernandez. The families also face threats of expulsion from their community pending payment of the fine "that was levied as part of extra-legal agreement in January 2020."
The said agreement in 2019 involves renouncing their faith. The two families and other protestants like them were forced to sign due to the more than two years of stress they have been facing in this area of Mexico.
The agreement involves eight protestant families in particular, although some such as Cruz Hernandez and wife Maria Francisca Martinez Hernandez, and Santiago Hernandez and Angelina Martinez Hernandez, initially refused it.
The Hernandezes' refusal to sign the said agreement led to the blocking of their essential services for water, sewer, and government benefit programs for more than a year prior to signing the "extra-legal agreement" that stipulated the renouncement of their right to hold worship services.
Extra-legal agreements are often created in Mexico as an "appropriate justice mechanism" in the event of a violation of a religious minorities' rights. Though such extra-legal agreements uphold the rights of the majority, more than the minority's, and in turn further imposes restrictions on religious freedom or beliefs.
Interestingly, the illegal fine imposed on the families in line with the agreement were partially paid by the authorities of the Mexican state and totaled roughly $2,905.30. The fine is said to be the result of costs that the community leaders incurred to halt any investigation on the families to progress into a criminal or human rights violation.
The families nonetheless received threats of displacement during follow-up meetings held in 2020 and 2021.
In particular, on August 3 two community leaders--Julio Alvarado Hernández and Jose Marcos Martínez--called a meeting with Eligio Santiago Hernández and Nemesio Cruz Hernández. The two community leaders threatened the Hernandezes with the cutting of essential services and the imposition of the fine should they refuse to stop holding religious services in Bartolo Martínez Hernández' home.
The same thing happened on September 6 when the two families received similar threats on top of being forced to be expelled from the community and being forbidden to speak.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an advocacy group specializing on religious freedom across four continents spanning 20 countries, have called on the state of Hidalgo to intervene on the matter of the Hernandezes due to their possibility of "forced displacement" just because they belonged to a religious minority.
"CSW calls on Hidalgo State Governor Omar Fayad Meneses, and Ivan Huesca, the Director of Religious Affairs for Hidalgo, to intervene in La Mesa Limantitla as a matter of urgency. If the state government refuses to protect the rights of religious minorities, the federal government must intervene," Christian Solidarity Worldwide Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said in a statement.
"The government, at both state and federal levels, must address the culture of impunity which has allowed violations like these to go unchecked for far too long, ensuring that families like those of Mr Cruz Hernández and Mr Santiago Hernández are free to practice any religion or belief of their choosing without being forced to pay illegal fines or facing pressure to renounce their beliefs under threat of criminal actions including the cutting of basic services and forced displacement," she stressed.