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News / Thoughts

Free after 17 years

November 17, 2014

The Acteal Massacre occurred on 22 December 1997. 45 people were killed, including 21 women and 15 children.

The murders, triggered by a local conflict between members of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party and supporters of the Zapatista rebels, resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of 98 men.

However, the arrests were made in response to international outrage at the government’s inaction, and the majority of those convicted were innocent peasants who had been falsely charged with the murders.

30 of those arrested were Christians. These men were able to share the gospel with their fellow prisoners, and most of the 98 men made the decision to follow Christ during their imprisonment.

“I always knew the Lord needed me inside the prison to take care of his sheep,” shared Antonio Perez, a prisoner who was a pastor in Acteal before he was arrested.

In 2002, Open Doors became indirectly involved with the case, encouraging the prisoners’ families, contributing to the cost of their legal defence, and lifting them up in prayer.

30 of those arrested were Christians. These men were able to share the gospel with their fellow prisoners, and most of the 98 men made the decision to follow Christ during their imprisonment.

Free at last

Now, 17 years after they were arrested, all but two of the Acteal prisoners have been released – just this week, Lorenzo Ruiz Vasquez, Alfredo Hernandez Ruiz and Jose Guzman Ruiz were declared innocent by the Supreme Court in Mexico City!

Antonio was released in April this year, and Open Doors staff had the joy of meeting him at the gates of El Amate Prison as he took his first steps as a free man. His family members were all very thankful for the support Open Doors has given the Acteal prisoners and their families over the years.

“You are God’s people and you work under God’s love,” shared Antonio’s eldest son, Juan.

The Acteal prisoners are forbidden from returning to their hometown, as the government fears that it would lead to more conflict in the region. However, land has been provided by the government for most of the prisoners who have been released, and they have also been provided with funds to build new homes.

Antonio has shared that the greatest desire of the freed prisoners is to build a church on the land they have been given. Open Doors has been helping Antonio to adjust to his new life outside of prison and assisting others in the building of their church, as well as planning training for the group once the church has been built.

Source: Open Doors; New York Times

Please pray

  • Praise God that Lorenzo, Alfredo and Jose are free!
  • Ask God to help the freed prisoners as they adjust to life outside of prison
  • That the two remaining Acteal prisoners will be granted freedom soon

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.