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Member of the Otomí community at the vandalized site. Member of the Otomí community at the vandalized shrine.

Jehovah’s Witnesses deny desecrating site

Ancient shrine continues to be used by the Otomí indigenous people

Vandalism at an ancient religious site belonging to the Otomí indigenous people in the state of Hidalgo has been blamed on Jehovah’s Witnesses believed to disapprove of non-Christian religious ceremonies.

That’s what Chapingo University professor Luis Pérez Lugo says he found when he looked into the vandalism, which took place at Mayonikha, located in San Bartolo Tutotepec.

A researcher who has written books about the Otomí, Pérez said he visited the nearby town of Los Pinales after hearing about the damage, reported to have taken place in May. There, he found a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who admitted to the site’s desecration.

“He wanted to justify what he did as a divine command in the name of Jehovah,” Pérez said. “I told him that we didn’t come here to speak about God, that we were here to see all the destruction and say that this is wrong.”

Pérez said some of those responsible used to attend Otomí ceremonies at the site but had converted and become Jehovah’s Witnesses.

One community member forecast illness among the people for the desecration.

“It is shameful what they did to México Chiquito,” Margarito Velazco said in a video uploaded to YouTube by the International Native American Congress. “Who knows what the harvests are going to be like now and I expect we will have lots of illness in our communities because of what they did there.”

The church itself denies any involvement. It said in a statement that it had investigated congregations in the area and reached the conclusion that the news was “false and misleading.”

“Jehovah’s Witnesses are respectful to people of other religions.”

Whoever was responsible for the damage knocked over stone altars and broke stone carvings and other objects.

Mayonikha, which means Little Church according to one translation and Little Mexico according to another, is a sacred place to the Otomí, says anthropologist Lourdes Báez, who likened it to Mecca for the Muslim faith and the Vatican for Roman Catholics.

The remote shrine, which is also recognized as an archaeological site, is thought to be thousands of years old and one of very few indigenous religious sites that remain in use.

Source: Criterio Hidalgo (sp), VICE News (en)

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