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Ecuadorian bishops reject accusations of contributing to social unrest

.- 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, “have 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.”

“In 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,” said the statement, which was signed by Bishop Nestor Herrera Heredia, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador.

The statement denounced threats to deport pastoral workers who are in Ecuador as missionaries as, “abuse of authority and disregard of the country’s 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.”

The bishops rejected the charges by local officials in Los Rios as “false and absurd” and expressed their complete support for those missionaries who are being, “unjustly disturbed.”  “To fight for justice is not to agitate the people,” the statement indicated, “Nor is it to implant terrorism or attack public order or civil peace.”

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