‘We don’t want to live in war,’ says bishop in violence-plagued Mexico

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Amid growing violence and a recent shootout involving organized crime in the region, Bishop Juan Manuel González Sandoval of Tarahumara in the Mexican state of Chihuahua said that “we don’t want to live in war” and demanded from the authorities “a security policy and strategy that prevents death, anxiety, fear, and anguish.”

Chihuahua borders New Mexico and Texas.

In a statement released Oct. 21, González lamented the clashes that took place in the town of Guachochi between organized crime gangs fighting for control of illegal logging operations in Chihuahua.

Alerted by citizens, the security forces arrived on the scene and were fired upon by the criminals.

“It seems that we’re in a ‘state of war,’ where there’s a ‘curfew,’ ‘suspension of classes,’ ‘businesses closing,’ ‘don’t go out on the street’... well, in what country are we in?” he questioned.

“Where and how are our children and young people growing up? Why don’t we have the rule of law, where as citizens we’re given our individual guarantees?” he continued.

According to a statement from the Secretary of National Defense (SEDENA), “on October 20 of this year, in the municipality of Guachochi, Chih., personnel from the National Guard and the Mexican Army were attacked with firearms by alleged members of organized crime.”

“When repelling the aggression, an aggressor lost his life at the scene of the incident and 12 individuals were arrested, securing their weapons, magazines, cartridges, and tactical equipment,” SEDENA reported.

The bishop of Tarahumara thanked the authorities “for the prompt and timely response they had in this tragic event, but we know that this is not enough.”

“As a Church, as believers, as Chihuahuans and as Mexicans: We want and demand a security policy and strategy that prevents the death, anxiety, fear, and anguish of so many people from our Sierra Tarahumara and in general in the entire country,” the prelate said.

“We seek and want peace!” the bishop insisted, adding that “we want our three levels of government to listen to us and respond to us.”

“At what point did their power and authority to enforce the law go away?” he questioned.

The Mexican bishop also addressed the criminals: “as sons, brothers, nationals, countrymen: We ask you to reflect, to look for other legitimate ways to have a decent life, to put yourself in a state of conversion so that you recognize yourself as beloved sons of God, and that that would lead you to lay down your arms.”

“The Church and the general public, we’re not your enemies or adversaries! We are people of good will who want and demand to live in peace,” he said.

The bishop assured the authorities that the Church offers them “our prayer, so that you find ways to lead us all to the sanity and rationality of living in a country where our individual guarantees and our human dignity are respected for all of us.” 

The Jesuit priests Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar were murdered inside a Catholic church on June 20 in the town of Cerocahui in the Sierra Tarahumara region.

Although the authorities have identified the alleged murderer, linked to organized crime, they haven’t managed to arrest him.

More in Americas

The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador could become the most violent period in the modern history of Mexico with more than 126,000 first-degree homicides recorded to date.

According to official figures, from Jan. 1 to Oct. 21, 2022, a total of 21,711 first-degree homicides have been recorded in Mexico.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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