May 28, 2009

Thinking of Amitai... and all the children like him.. Jesus Loves You, Everything will be OK ?

The Voice of the Martyrs Blessing Program for the Children and Women of Persecuted Christian Leaders is one of the ways that we get to know brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their Christian faith... a way to show them in the name of Jesus, that we care and are concerned for them, and others like them around the world. We, in Sinaloa, who are a part of the hopefully new VOM Mexico mission, don't have the funding behind us like other larger ministries present in Mexico, and started out between 4 of us: with Jaimee, me, Karina, and Janeth just making odds and ends in a workshop area in my home for the first Blessings celebration in Ocosingo in 2005... for believe it or not about 450 children. The major costs were paid for by VOM/USA through the colaboration and leadership of the Spanish speaking office in Costa Rica. We have develped a small group of faithful supporters who contribute clothes, small toys, hair doodads, etcetera every year, and several who have offering cans in their church to collect change that is passed to us when it is close to full, or we have the need. The second year when over 1000 children were invited, we were blessed by the participation of 24 churches in the state of Sinaloa... something that sadly we have not been able to repeat. But Praise God! What a wonderful year it was! Since we are now working independently, it is so much more imortant to find faithful supporters, first in prayer, second in offerings however small they may be... since few projects are without some cost, and then in donations of materials like you see in this photo: Biblical coloring and bilingual or Spanish story books with pictures, educational and recreational material... baby dolls, "hot-wheel" cars, farm and animal figures, hair doodads, hygiene objects, that are not bulky and all time kids' favorites. I have collected the equivalent of pennies, nickles and dimes for several years now from small rural churches... and sometimes I have even financed my trips to Chiapas that way. Why bother struggling like that? How valuable is such a program? I'm thinking of a little boy named Amitai ( like so many others arround the world), 9 years old, living in Oaxaca, who lost his home, all his possessions, and his father to lack of medical care... all because his parents accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour... and were expelled from their home and community last year.When his father, who was confined to a wheelchair, died last March from fever and complications, he and his mother were kicked out of their tiny apartment, and moved into a smaller room for the two of them. Even with that she is struggling to care for them both. She is a tiny thing, like me. You just want to hug here and say, "Don't worry, it'll be okay. Jesus loves you". But it's not always ok... and she and Amitai will probably suffer some more. She's worried about how her son, who lost more than a year of schooling when they were expelled, will be able to continue studying. Although it is supposed that schooling in Mexico is free... it is far from it. Children have a huge list of what they must buy before they enter school, up to and including the toilet paper for the bathrooms, and the water for the classroom. Although it is required to attend school through secondary level, in cases like Nereida's, the hard truth is that children need to work to help put food on the table and a roof over their heads. In the name of our Lord, and through Voice of the Martyrs, I want to hug Amitai, and his mom... and all the children and their moms from the Acteal Evangelical Prisoners group and say... "Jesus loves you... especially when life is hard, and so does the Body of Christ. They pray for you. They are concerned for you and others like you in places where they suffer even more than here in Mexico. In His name, we are going to stand by you, encourage you in His Word, and where it is possible help you in other ways through the sacrifice of brothers and sisters in Christ who also love you. You are a blessing to us!" Please join us in the ministry of encouragement and support for those who are willing to pay a price beyond pearls for their faith in Jesus Christ. As I drink my coffee comfortably here in Sinaloa, my heart aches for those I personally know who need encouragement and a helping hand ... how many more are there in this world who need a hug, and someone to say, "It'll be okay... Jesus loves you! and I do too!" Matthew 25: 31-46

May 27, 2009

Acteal Case to be Revisted / Will there be Justice for the Evangelicals?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, this article came out Monday by the La Jornada, and is the latest on the Acteal Case in which over 40 evangelicals were falsely accused of participating in the horrendous massacre. The information is long in coming, and obviously the defense from the Christian ministry,Open Doors, has been working for this, and still hoping that justice will be served. These brothers have been persecuted for their faith, imprisoned unjustly for 12+ years, lost homes, lands, wives who married other men to survive, family...everything but their faith in Christ. Their wives and children who were poor and marginalized before, were left worse off. Please keep this situation in prayer, the Supreme court judges and those waiting for their verdict. This is the last judicial option they will have. Should they gain their freedom they will be faced with: where to go, how to begin over, how to relate to those who pointed their fingers at them and said..."He was one of them". Translation is from the Spanish text. The article is here specifically to promote prayer.

(Fuente: La Jornada / Mexico) It Appears That the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation Intends to Liberate 14 Indian Prisoners Imprisoned for the Acteal Massacre

The opening discussion of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (Mexico) is about 4 legal “stays” granted to 41 Indians who were sentenced for the Acteal Massacre, committed on December 22nd, 1997, in Chiapas, Mexico. The resulting proposal of complete freedom for 14 of the accused and sentenced is “because their responsibility in the massacre has not been fully proved”; while, a special legal “judicial stay” has been ordered in the cases of some 27 other cases, so that the presiding judge can evaluate evidence that was not considered when he had made his decision. Judicial sources have confirmed the report, and explained that the 4 “stays” will be analyzed in session by the court officials before Wednesday, with the objective of resolving the situation in no more than 2 weeks (?). The four issues were presented at different times, but they are all related to the same case: the assassination of 45 Tzotzil Indians (21 women - 4 of them pregnant, 15 children, and 9 men) who belonged to the organization “The Bees”, while they were praying and fasting for peace (in the Chiapas Highlands). It is noted that the issues discussed by the 5 judges, who make up highest group of the Supreme Court, are related exclusively to Indians who were accused of the crimes of personal injury, homicide, and bearing arms restricted to only military use. None of the issues have to do with the 15 ex state agents and public officials who were also sentenced. In accordance with the information obtained, the legal “protections” or stays were presented by groups of those sentenced. The group reviewed by Olga Sanchez Cordero is made of 4 complainants, Jose de Jesus Gudiño Pelayo with 6, Jose Ramon Cossio with 14, and Sergio Valls made up of 25. Judicial sources confirmed that out of all of these cases, immediate release is proposed in 14 cases, because after reviewing the files, the officials did not find proof that confirmed the accusations made against the complainants. There are testimonies of those who deny having been at the scene of the crime, or some who claim they were victims, but the authorities have not proved that they had participated in the murders. Respecting the other 27 complainants, the review board proposes conceding a judicial stay, so that the tribune can dictate a sentence that takes into account evidential proofs that were ignored in the first case, and that were definitive in their original sentencing. The complainants received sentences that varied from 25 to 40 years of prison. Once the court officials analyze in private the four issues, they will then review in which cases exist “insufficient proof” to advance the approval of final verdicts, in which each judge will maintain his or her point of view.

The woman pictured above, mother of Acteal Family Spokesperson Estela Luna Perez, the wife and mother of men imprisoned for over 12 years now, cries during an interview with Voice of the Martyrs team who have listened to their testimonies and needs.

May 9, 2009

Classic Case of Religious Intolerance Leading to Persecution

Oscar Moha, well known Christian news journalist and human rights defender in Mexico for over 20 years, receives and documents each case of religious intolerance and developing persecution in Mexico as they occur. Many realize that there is ongoing persecution in the southern state of Chiapas, but aren't conscious that there are reports on a regular basis from 7 other states, involving sometimes entire communities, or several families threatened with violence, loss of their lands and expulsion...leaving everything they own behind. Such is the case of the over 400 evangelical believers expelled from San Juan Yatzona in the state of Oaxaca, since 1984. Oscar initially received their complaint of not receiving any help from the government Religious Affairs office back in February of this year, later met with and interviewed them, and advised them of where they should go to seek legal support. We organized a Children's Day activity for their families for the 30th of April, with the idea of meeting with them again and seeing how things were going. These activities are also a way of encouraging those who are persecuted, and providing them with an opportunity to relax a little and enjoy both their families and Christian fellowship. Several sisters in Christ have been working in the office in Sinaloa since September making gift containers, collecting, and shopping for small gifts and Christian material for the children of these brothers and sisters in Christ who were expelled from their homes, leaving everything behind. The actual expulsions began in 1984, very strictly maneuvered to discourage anyone else from daring to leave behind the old ways combined with a local required form of Catholicism. Those who were expelled originally, could not recuperate their houses, lands, crops, or possessions. Little by little they accomodated themselves in new places, and went back when they could to visit with, and occasionally share the gospel with the familiy members they had left behind. Whenever there were enough new converts to be noticed, they would be expelled by force again. The latest expulsions in 2007 and this past year put a real strain on the believers who had left years before, making it more difficult to help them resettle. Nine families were expelled in the past year, loosing the family lands and houses built with much sacrifice and hard work. Rxxxxx, a young Catholic had worked in the US for 8 years, managing to send back to his wife enough to build his 2 story house and equip it. He received a fax from the community authorities telling him his wife had converted, and he made his way home to present her by force and pay the fine required. But when he arrived, willing to do anything to recover his legal property, he was beaten, and dropped off in a near by town. He is being punished for not controlling his wife's behaviour, and for her becoming an evangelical believer. He can't understand why his fellow Catholics have stolen his property by force and abused him and his family. Two other young wives were abandoned by their husbands who decided not to send them any more money from the States if it meant loosing what they were investing in. One of the children, a three year old girl died at the end of March without her father's support. A young brother in Christ, Nxxxx, decapacitated and in a wheel chair, died from a treatable illness, without resources, leaving his young wife Nxxxxxx, of 28 and their 9 year old son, Axxxx alone. She was evicted from their tiny apartment 2 weeks after he died for lack of funds. All of these people had houses, lands, merchandise, jobs, etcetera before they were violently expelled at 4 am in the morning, in the pouring rain by a mob of 15 masked "neighbors", forced to hide in the bushes as they were chased from their town. They are forbidden to even talk to their families in Yatzona, to prevent them from contaminating the rest with their "evangelical cult " ideas. The Oaxacan state government has refused to even acknowledge the religious persecution. Arrest warrants were signed for 8 persons, but they each paid for and received an amparo which allows them their freedom from prosecution. This is one of the clearest caes of persecution I've seen yet.. and is outside of Chiapas. Please keep them in prayer...they are without resources and struggling to maintain their children in school, and fed. Their party was postponed by the influenza epidemic...but I left everything there ready for them, to enjoy as soon as possible, and shared with them about others who suffer persecution even more severe in other parts of the world. I think they have learned to understand what it is to suffer for Christ's sake, and can relate better to the sufferings of others. Pray for young Rxxxx, for his relationship with the Lord in the midst of his problems, which seem to him to be so unfair. Will keep you posted...if you are interested in encouraging them, or in helping in some way, leave me a comment here please. God bless you for your concern, linda