Hostilities between Mexico’s Catholics and Protestants reached a new high last month when an interdenominational prayer meeting attended by some 160 evangelicals in the Mexico City area was violently broken up by a mob of several thousand Catholics armed with stones, machetes, and sticks. Virtually all those attending the meeting were injured. “It was a miracle no one was killed,” said Roxanne Menezes, a young Christian worker who described the scene as “nightmarish.”

Witnesses said that an all-night prayer meeting being held on the slopes of the Ajusco volcano in the southeast section of Mexico City had been in progress for several hours when crowds yelling, “Kill them!” and “This is a Catholic town!” converged on the group. Townspeople were reportedly told the group consisted of squatters who had come to steal their land. But even after the real identity was explained, the majority of the crowd persisted in its attack. Ten police squad cars arrived on the scene but could not control the mob. Instead, they tried to shield the evangelicals from their attackers with their vehicles, eyewitnesses reported. One squad car accidentally hit prayer group leader Juan Isáis, who was struck by a rock and beaten.

Catholic officials in the neighboring suburbs of Xicalco and Magdalena, where most of the mob originated, have made it clear that evangelicals are not welcome. They refused to comment on the Ajusco incident, but a local priest referred reporters to local government official Guillermo Gutiérrez. A report in the influential daily newspaper Uno más Uno quoted Gutiérrez as affirming the expulsion: “We are all Catholic.… In the case someone who lives [in this community] might decide to change religion, the person could be expelled ...

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