Bishops urge conversion amid drug gang violence in Ecuador

ecuador Members of the National Police prepare before going out to patrol the streets of Duran, city neighbouring Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Nov. 5, 2022. Special police forces continued on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022 to transfer imprisoned criminal gang leaders who have unleashed terror in Guayaquil as part of the government's "open war" against drug trafficking. | Photo by RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP via Getty Images

Drug trafficking gangs in Ecuador have reacted to the government’s efforts to retake control of the prisons by launching a series of attacks — including the use of car bombs — that have left several dead, including five police officers.

In an effort to quell the violence, on Nov. 4 the president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, extended to the province of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas the state of emergency that has been in effect in the provinces of Las Guayas and Esmeraldas since Nov. 1.

The state of emergency suspends for 45 days the rights to freedom of association and assembly, the inviolability of the home, and personal correspondence. The decrees of Nov. 1 and 4 also establish a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

In a Nov. 5 statement, the Ecuadorian bishops called on the crime gangs to stop the violence and to take the path to conversion.

“The power, the money that you now have from so many dirty businesses, from so many mafia-style crimes, is blood money… Convert; there is still time to not end up in hell. This is what awaits you if they continue down this path,” they warned, citing the words of Pope Francis.

They also called on politicians and social actors to seek the welfare of the people and not partisan interests. “It depends largely on political and social action for the mafias to not fill their ranks with the poor,” the bishops said.

After expressing their solidarity with the families of the victims, the prelates said that “each one of us will have to render an account not only to history but to God himself for our actions.”

“It’s time for national unity, to rebuild the social compact that unites us and fight that common enemy which is organized crime … that seeks to destroy the most valuable treasure we have, our children and young people, and that finds fertile ground in a society in which, unfortunately, poverty and inequality seem to have no end,” the bishops said.

The Ecuadorian bishops announced Sunday, Nov. 6, as a day of prayer in all parishes, chapels, and oratories to ask God for peace and the end of violence in the country.

The bishops asked that the following prayer be offered that day:

“Almighty and merciful God, Lord of the universe and of human history. Everything you have created is good, and your compassion for man, who abandons you again and again, is inexhaustible.

“We come today to implore you to protect Ecuador and its inhabitants with peace, taking far away from it the destructive waves of violence, restoring friendship, and pouring into the hearts of your creatures the gift of trust and readiness to forgive.

“Giver of life, we also pray to you for all those who have died, victims of brutal criminal acts. Grant them recompense and eternal joy. May they intercede for Ecuador, shaken by anguish and misfortune.

“Jesus, Prince of Peace, we pray for those injured in attacks by crime gangs: children and young people, women and men, the elderly, innocent people and those who have been randomly attacked. Heal their bodies and hearts; may they feel strengthened by your consolation. Keep away hatred and the desire for revenge from them.

“Holy Spirit the Comforter, visit the families that mourn the loss of their relatives, innocent victims of violence and drug trafficking. Cover them with the mantle of your Divine Mercy. May they find in you the strength and courage to continue being brothers and sisters to others, bearing witness to your love with their lives.

“Move the hearts of the violent so that they recognize the evil of their actions and return to the path of peace and goodness, respect for life and the dignity of every human being.

“God, Eternal Father, compassionately listen to this prayer that rises toward you amid the din and desperation of Ecuador. Full of trust in your infinite mercy, trusting in the intercession of your Most Holy Mother, we turn to you with great hope, imploring the gift of peace and asking you to remove from us scourge of violence away. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.”

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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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