.- In response to the violent ousting by police of hundreds of residents in the province of Los Rios, the bishops of Ecuador defended pastoral workers who assist the poor and said they were not contributing to social unrest.
In a statement the bishops underscored that authorities, âhave once again fallen into the mistaken attitude of accusing the parish priest and pastoral workers of agitating the people by simply being with residents of the area in the midst of the excesses of which they are victims.â
âIn the face of the violent ousting of residents who have held and lived off their lands for more than 40 years, who see their homes destroyed, who see their crops ruined and people insulted, no sensible person can remain silent, much less pastoral workers, who are called to look after the dignity of the human person and defend his rights,â said the statement, which was signed by Bishop Nestor Herrera Heredia, president of the Bishopsâ Conference of Ecuador.
The statement denounced threats to deport pastoral workers who are in Ecuador as missionaries as, âabuse of authority and disregard of the countryâs laws (by those) who are supposed to be looking after the well-being of their fellow countrymen and giving an example of respect for the rights of all people.â
The bishops rejected the charges by local officials in Los Rios as âfalse and absurdâ and expressed their complete support for those missionaries who are being, âunjustly disturbed.â âTo fight for justice is not to agitate the people,â the statement indicated, âNor is it to implant terrorism or attack public order or civil peace.â