August 23, 2001

Water to flow, cooling Mexican religious dispute

                 MEXICO CITY, Mexico (Reuters) -- Roman Catholics and Protestant
                 evangelicals in a tiny Mexican town reached a pact on Wednesday,
                 settling a decades-old dispute that led the town to cut off the evangelicals'
                 water, the federal government said.

                 The two religious groups in San Nicolas Ixmiquilpan, located in the central state of
                 Hidalgo, about 90 miles (150 km) from Mexico City, had been at loggerheads for
                 decades over the payment of community dues.

                 The conflict peaked in March, when the Catholic-dominated town government
                 cut off water for the evangelicals and threatened to run them out of town for
                 refusing to help pay for celebrations marking Catholic saints' days.

                 Now the water seems set to flow again. In exchange for the resumption of
                 service, the evangelicals agreed to make community payments for nonreligious
                 events and to drop lawsuits against the Catholics, the Interior Ministry said.

                 The warring groups also vowed -- in the presence of Hidalgo Gov. Manuel
                 Angel Nunez and other officials -- to respect each other's customs so long as
                 they did not violate basic human rights, the ministry said.

                 After shutting off the water, the town had given the evangelicals a deadline of
                 June 15 to pay community dues before being evicted, though the government
                 said the deadline was later withdrawn.

                    Copyright 2001 Reuters.