A 54-year-old villager in Oaxaca state, Mexico, who once worshiped pagan gods and sought the advice of witch doctors converted to Christianity after the prayers of a local ministry miraculously healed his terminal illness.
Christian Aid Mission shares the story of Sabino, an ethnic Triqui who, along with his fellow villagers, made regular sacrifices and offerings to the gods of his ancestors. When he fell ill, Sabino visited the local witch doctors and shamans to find healing.
"They tried things like taking him to places where he might have been frightened, there trying to undo the scare by offering intoxicating drinks and blood sacrifices of animals, besides burning incense. They told him to eat certain plants and animals and perform various rites," the report notes.
When their efforts were unsuccessful, the witchdoctors feared Sabino had fallen victim to the "evil eye" and ordered him to pay money for them to intercede for him with the gods.
Still, none of these methods worked, prompting Sabino to visit a local doctor.
"The doctors treated his diseases as much as possible, but finally they gave up on him," said Celso, director of a ministry indigenous to Mexico. "The doctors said he was terminally ill and told him to prepare himself, because he would die. He had lost a lot of weight, and he looked like a walking cadaver."
"The doctors said he was terminally ill and told him to prepare himself, because he would die," the ministry director said. "He had lost a lot of weight, and he looked like a walking cadaver."
Finally, Sabino decided to attend a local worship service as a last resort, despite being annoyed by the local Christians who were always loudly praising God. There, local missionaries prayed for the ailing man.
"From that moment on, I felt a change inside of me," Sabino told CAM. "I felt something happen inside, and since then I began to recover. I made the decision to follow Christ and gave my heart to Christ, and God answered."
One year later, Sabino is completely healed from his illness - and he is training to become involved in the local church.
"He is a testimony to the people of the community, because his physical appearance also has radically changed," the missionary director said. "The Lord not only acted in his illness, but He radically changed Sabino's life for the glory of God. Sabino now serves the Lord with a grateful heart in both the church and in his village."
While Mexico is considered more than 80 percent Catholic, the country ranks as the 41st-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List.
The watchdog group explains that one form of persecution prevalent in the country, ethnic antagonism, targets believers who converted from indigenous beliefs to Protestant Christianity. Those who refuse to conform to the religious rituals of their community often face severe persecution.
Fox News reports that an "alarming number of incidents over the past year have seen Christians in a handful of states in southern Mexico attacked, beaten and even banished from their villages."
"They will try to force them to convert, and if they refuse, they are banned from their villages, unable to live with or see their families," said Nate Lance, advocacy manager for the Christian group International Christian Concern. "When they refuse to recant their faith, they are expelled from the community."
While Mexico's Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, human rights advocates say state and federal governments do little to ensure citizens' rights at the local level.
"We are equally appalled that the state government continues to let this persecution fester, allowing more Christians to be displaced, imprisoned, and beaten," Lance said. "If the government does not intervene to protect religious minorities, I see no reason why the trend of increased persecution will not continue."
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