Communique on Chiapas, January 12, 1994
Communique of the Permanent Council of the Mexican Episcopate
Peace is the fruit of justice (Is. 32:17)
With full confidence in God and with profound sense of hope, we present the following considerations to all the people of Mexico. May it be a word of encouragement in the faith and a call to peace and reconciliation.
- We recognize above all that the situation of misery, helplessness and scorn in which the peasants and indigenous people of Chiapas, as in other parts of Mexico, are living is the root of the violence which has loosed itself upon the highlands of Chiapas. And the misuse of wealth by some can become an affront to the poverty of others. Therefore we believe that the economic system which produces the Free Trade Agreement has to take into account the situation of the peasants and the indigenous, and bring forth an "economy with a human face," an "economy of solidarity."
The human person is more important than any economic gain. Nature's resources should be used appropriately so that they are to the benefit primarily of the inhabitants of each area, not just of those who have more power or money. Existing legislation on the ecology should also be obeyed.
- Once again we reprove the violence and the recourse to armed insurrection as a way of solving the real problems of misery and injustice, and we repeat what the Bishops of Chiapas have already pointed out in their Message of January 1:
"Judging the concrete case, it seems to us that anguish and suffering have brought the members of this movement to a subjective belief that there is no peaceful way for those who have lost everything.
"It is our view, nevertheless, that despite the present grave situation, a mutual willingness to dialogue still offers a way to avoid even more costly consequences than those already suffered. We do not accept armed uprising or resort to violence, but this should serve as a warning of the danger resulting from the despair of the marginalized groups."
And the Bishops of Chiapas end with the following exhortation:
"We must all be ready to put forth every effort so as not to allow us to be taken 'by the temptation to despair or vengeance, but rather be ready to channel our efforts toward forgiveness and reconciliation' (Message of the Pope for the World Day of Peace, 1994, p.7)"
- It seems to us wrong and harmful that, adding suffering onto poverty, some people insist on a class struggle that in other parts of the world has, without exception, done no more than lead people to violence, oppression and misery.
- Moreover, we know that it is not part of indigenous culture to attack the adversary. They have taught all of us hospitality, respect for human life, and the effort to share the goods of nature. Above all they give us example of respect and love of God and His church.
- It would be equally condemnable for the Mexican Army to overstep its bounds in the fulfillment of its duty, which is to work for the safety and the freedom of the Mexican people, working together for the common good of the nation and keeping the peace. It is necessary that they respect the civilian population, that they do not commit abuses in searching for the guilty, that they provide accurate information, and that they take care of prisoners and the wounded according to the internationally accepted norms.
- "In the midst of our world, divided by wars and discord, may your church, O Lord, be an instrument of unity, concord, and peace" (Eucharistic Prayer).
In the face of the accusations or rumors that "the church" in San Cristobal encouraged the armed uprising, we should first understand that the church is not just the hierarchy (bishops, priests, and deacons), but also the laity, such as the catechists. If any of them through personal conviction may have joined the armed struggle, that is independent of the mission they have received as catechists. In each case, accusations should not be based on suppositions but on sufficient proof. The Bishops of Chiapas have repeatedly called on those who have taken up arms to leave that way and behave as Jesus showed in the Gospels.
We cannot accept any such suspicions concerning priests or religious or about the Bishop himself. We maintain that he has always condemned the violence, as he has also denounced the misery that, in this case, is the result of the abuse of power and the unjust structures that must be corrected.
- We are living an important moment in the history of our country; it calls on all of us to change our manner of thinking and acting. The situation of many campesino and indigenous people is totally contrary to God's plan. We should look at Jesus, the Son of God who invites us to live out our conversion in order to transform our world so it can become a true family home where we live in brotherhood and peace. We address ourselves, then, to the business people, the ranchers and growers and all with influence over the life of the people of Chiapas. It is necessary that they undertake actions to alleviate the situation of the poorest, so that they might live with dignity as children of God.
The churches themselves, the parishes and religious communities which have more should be ever more open in helping those who have less. On this as well hangs the credibility of our church.
- "Jesus, Lamb of God, grant us peace"
Finally, we call everyone to prayer, the force that transforms our hearts, according to God's will. Peace is a gift of God and a human task. Jesus, Son of God, Master of our faith, teaches us to pray.
Some Further Proposals for Action
- We propose that every community celebrate a NATIONAL DAY FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE IN CHIAPAS, on Sunday, January 23, the eve of the feast of Our Lady, Queen of Peace. It is hoped that in each place there will be times of prayer and sacrifice, offerings of material aid. We put our special trust above all in the support from the contemplative religious, from the sick and from those in suffering. We can also look for signs that will encourage us to a harmonious sharing, such as flying white banners from our houses.
We believe that the designation by the President of Dr. Manuel Camacho Solis to be in charge of peace and reconciliation in Chiapas is a welcome sign. The initiatives undertaken by his commission should find support among all Mexicans.
- We ask that all material aid be channeled through the national or diocesan Caritas offices, or through the following Commission.
- Based on Article 25 (Par.d) of the Statutes of the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate, the President has established a non-juridical COMMISSION FOR ASSISTING RECONCILIATION AND PEACE in Chiapas, with the following functions: to serve as a link between the people of Chiapas and the Holy See, expedite communication with the bishops of Mexico and facilitate the help which will be needed for reconciliation and peace.
The Commission will consist of the following bishops:
Archbishop Adolfo A. Suarez Rivera of Monterrey, President of CEM
Archbishop Hector Gonzalez Martinez of Oaxaca, President of CEPS
Bishop Samuel Ruiz of San Cristobal de las Casas
Bishop Felipe Aguirre of Tuxtla Gutierrez
Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of Tapachula
Bishop Carlos Talavera of Coatzacoalcos
Bishop Raul Vera, O.P. of Ciudad Altamirano
Mexico City, January 12, 1994
+Adolfo A. Suarez Rivera
Archbishop of Monterrey
President of CEM
+Ramon Godinez Flores
Auxiliary of Guadalajara
General Secretary of CEM