Mexican New Jerusalem sect children return to school

Boys from the New Jerusalem community on their first day back at school, 24 Sep 2012 Some 125 children attended classes on the first day of the new term

Children from the New Jerusalem sect in Mexico's western Michoacan state have returned to school after clashes between members of the community.

Some community leaders objected on religious grounds to the secular education provided by the state.

They clashed with other parents, burned down the local state school and locked the gates of the community.

The stand-off delayed the beginning of term by a month, affecting some 250 children.

On the first day of classes on Monday, 125 children turned up, local authorities said.

The classes are taking place in nine pre-fabricated class rooms, taken to the nearby town of La Injertada to temporarily replace the burnt-out school building.

Police officers were deployed on the road between the New Jerusalem community and the school.

'Goodwill gesture'

A six-point agreement was signed this weekend between local leaders and the Mexican authorities to build the new school inside the New Jerusalem compound, not in La Injertada.

Mothers of the New Jerusalem community wait outside the school, 24 Sep 2012 Mothers of the New Jerusalem community wait outside the school

In return, community leaders will help the police find those responsible for the 6 July arson attack.

"As a goodwill gesture, we have agreed to send our children to school this week," said a spokesman for the Parents' Committee, Hermenegildo Zeferino.

"We will wait till the end of the week to find out whether the Michoacan state government is willing to do its part."

The religious sect was founded in 1973 by a defrocked priest, who objected to changes in the Catholic Church, including the end of masses in Latin.

They believe their compound will be the only place on Earth spared from an impending apocalypse.

Some radical leaders of the community reject computers, text books and school uniforms.

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