Evangelical church in Chiapas suffers arson attack on eve of Pope's arrival

An evangelical church in Chiapas, Mexico, was attacked and burned this week, just a day before Pope Francis visited the region.

Pope Francis waves to the crowd after celebrating a Mass at San Cristobal de las Casas, MexicoReuters

Early morning on February 15, the Fuente de Fe, Alabanza y Poder church in Zinacantán city was raided and subject to an arson attack, according to Evangelical Focus.

Unidentified assailants broke into the church, damaging a window and the door in the process, and gathered around 200 chairs, the pulpit, curtains and tables and burnt them. The fire that ensued damaged the ceiling.

Due to the Pope's visit to the region, the police office in the city was closed, and the church's pastor, Ciro Díaz Méndez, was therefore unable to report the attack. However, he – along with a legal representative – went to the church to verify the damages.

The next day, Pope Francis spoke against exploitation and oppression of the indigenous people of Chiapas, saying the world should seek forgiveness for their treatment of them.

"How well we would all do, to do some soul searching and learn to say sorry," Francis said.

Evangelical Focus noted that "the Pope did not mention any of the attacks and aggressions some Mexican evangelical communities have suffered in the recent years, most of the times (sic) just for not renouncing their faith."

This latest attack against evangelical christians in Chiapas, Mexico is not an isolated incident. On 4 January, armed villagers raided and destroyed the homes of Protestants in Leyva Velazques village, Chiapas, forcing them to flee to nearby mountains. 

Protestants are a minority religion in Mexico and "in the rural areas where we see persecution, many villages and their councils are dominated by adherents to syncretistic Catholicism," ICC's advocacy manager, Nathaniel Lance, previously told Christian Today.