Huichol mobs wielding machetes and clubs in western Mexico's Jalisco state have expelled 80 evangelicals from Agua Fria village, threatening to burn the Christians and refusing to allow their return unless they recant their faith. The mobs reacted against evangelicals' shunning of Huichol native religion, which encourages taking hallucinogenic peyote.

Statutes in the village of Agua Fria, where most of the nearly 1,000 residents practice a mix of traditional Huichol animism and Roman Catholicism, specify that residents may live in the village only if they practice Huichol culture, defined in part by religion. On August 14 the mob targeted all Agua Fria evangelicals, which included members of Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Apostolic Faith churches. In February, Huichol traditionalists torched the home of evangelical Hermelinda Vazquez de la Cruz. Severely burned, she escaped with her children and now uses a walker, confirmed Mark Schultz, an evangelical missionary in Porvenir, Baja California, who ministers among Huicholes.

Schultz said an increasing number of Huicholes are becoming Christians. The Huichol leaders typically expel only individuals or families for converting. In 30 years, Schultz has heard of only three Huichol evangelical groups being forced from their homes.

In 2002, Huicholes of Mezquitic, Jalisco, expelled the town's evangelicals, prompting Jalisco's government to intervene, Compass Direct reported. Schultz told CT that his church in Porvenir is still supporting those who relocated to Tenzompa village in Jalisco, helping them to erect a new church building.

Generally, such violence in Mexico is prompted less by religion than by money. Persecutors often aim to protect the liquor-store profits of local caciques ...

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November 2005

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