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Terrible Violence Towards Tribal Believers In Southern Mexico

Dr. Dale W. Kietzman, founder of Latin American Indian Ministries (www.laim.org) has voiced his deep concern to the ASSIST News Service about the terrible violence that has been taking place towards tribal believers in southern Mexico.

An Indian mother and children in Chiapas
(Photo: Dan Wooding)

“While we want to be positive about the year ahead, we have to report to you a real concern for tribal believers in southern Mexico,” said Kietzman, former U.S. director of Wycliffe Bible Translators. “The troubles for believers there have not ended!”

He then listed “confirmed reports” of some events just in the last few months, all from the Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca:

* Pastor Armando Lopes is waylaid and killed as he travels back to his village after a doctor’s appointment in Comitan, Chiapas.
* Three pastors are killed in Santa Maria El Tule, Oaxaca.
* Four families of believers are expelled from the village of Chilil, Chiapas.
* The church in Llanos, Chiapas, was destroyed last June, and believers put on notice. This month, six homes are destroyed and the families expelled from the community.
* In Mitziton, Chiapas, the church and many homes are destroyed and fifty families are expelled from the community.
* In Nachug, Chiapas, 86 families are expelled.
* At the end of 2010, 498 Indian believers were living as street people, homeless in the city of San Cristobal, where they had sought protection.

“Almost all of this persecution is the result of the conflict which develops when new believers decide they can no longer go along with the rest of the villagers in their practice of drunken fiestas to saints housed in the untended Catholic church, but which have really come to represent ancient pagan gods,” he said. “The responsibility for funding the fiestas are passed around to families in the community, and the conflict begins when an evangelical family is supposed to buy the liquor but refuses to do so.

“Pray for these ‘suffering saints’, many of them very new believers! Some will eventually establish new villages and gradually build their homes again, usually after first building a new church. But the days ahead will be very hard.

“Thank you for praying. And we will be praying for you!”

History of LAIM

Manuel Arenas
(Photo: Dan Wooding)

The organization now known as Latin American Indian Ministries began in 1972 as the Totonac Bible Center, Inc. At that time, its primary goal was to support the work of Manuel Arenas, the gifted Totonac Indian who was the principal translation helper for Herman Aschmann in his early translation efforts among the Highland Totonac people of Mexico.

After having gained an excellent education in the United States and Germany, Manuel determined to establish a school among his own people. The Centro Cultural Pro-Totonaco in La Union, Puebla, is a witness to his vision. Over the years, Manuel tried in various ways to expand his vision to all the tribal groups of Mexico. He organized three different consultations of Christian leaders from other tribes. He also opened his school to students from other tribes.

After Manuel’s death in 1992, Dale Kietzman became president of the Totonac Bible Center board in the United States. Increasingly, the support activity focused on other tribes, following Manuel’s vision. As a consequence, in 1996, the Board voted to change the name of the corporation to Latin American Indian Ministries (LAIM).

LAIM is now designed as a networking structure to encourage organizations formed in Latin America by evangelical Indians for the evangelization or advancement of their own indigenous communities, as well as to represent these groups to potential outside supporting constituencies.

“Our ministry goal,” said Kietzman, “is to be a facilitator to the ministry goals of indigenous organizations. We are a ‘Barnabas’ to their efforts. We do not send personnel to be doers of ministry; rather we help, guide, and support their efforts. We are always available as mentors to the Indian leadership; we make ourselves available in a long term commitment to any specific community with which we become involved.”

Dr. Kietzman can be contacted by e-mail at: dale@laim.org

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