Clerics protest persecution of the Church by the state government

Important troop movements in Chiapas, on the 26th anniversary of the EZLN
Hermann Bellinghausen

La Jornada
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chis. November 17. As a public declaration by priests and nuns today revealed the degree of tension between the diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas and the state government, the army remains very active, with raids and patrols in communities in the central and jungle border regions. On Monday there was an exceptional movement of troops towards the Highlands, according to witnesses in San Juan Chamula.

On the 26th anniversary of the founding of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), the fact that the Zapatistas have now been in silence for over eight months was today underlined by the absence of any commemorative event in the Caracoles, and there was no statement from the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee – General Command of the EZLN, which has not signed or issued any statement since 8th March. According to an entry made a few weeks ago on the website Enlace Zapatista, ‘any text appearing after that date bearing the signature of the EZLN is apocryphal’.

Meanwhile, priests, nuns and missionaries in the south of the diocese of San Cristobal protested strongly against ‘the persecution of the Catholic Church’ by the state government, against Bishop Felipe Arizmendi, and especially against the priest Jesus Landin (padre Chuy), of the parish of St. Bartholomew in Venustiano Carranza, and his staff. “We are not criminals nor are we promoting violence in any form”, they said.

The religious officers note in their statement that ‘the obsession with the persecution of Landin has reached the point where even the governor of Chiapas, Juan Sabines Guerrero, tried to help to expel the bishop from the diocese and from Chiapas. However, they add, ‘nobody has the right to seek the expulsion of a citizen from anywhere in the country, and doing so would be acting contrary to the Constitution’.

The government ‘has begun a continual persecution of Landin, accusing him of inciting people to protest, and of  promoting violence and the use of weapons.’ The witnesses assert that these accusations are lies and slander. They express their solidarity with members of the parish of St. Bartholomew and reaffirm their social commitment, to accompany those people who try to assert their rights to freedom and their respect for our Mother Earth.

Based on their experience in communities in their area, they state: ‘The cause of the persecution of the Church and peoples of Chiapas is the mining concessions given to foreign companies to extract riches from under the ground’. It is known that the government has given permission to explore and exploit the subsoil of Chiapas over an area of more than one million hectares.

The church officers consider themselves bound to protest ‘against persecution and undue interference in the affairs of our church.’ The state governor “blames the church for the inhabitants of Acteal having refused to receive him. The people of Acteal consider that the presence of officials of a government which was complicit in the slaughter would be a mockery, and that by freeing the assassins they remain complicit in such a terriblecrime.

The diocese was not going to take the the governor there, but neither did they take the decision that he would not be received.  Such deciions are solely for the peoples concerned. ”

Finally, they rejected the intrusion of  police orejas (ears) into acts of Christian worship, vainly hoping to find evidence of crimes that had never been committed, ‘and we hope in God, never will be commited. ‘

(Thanks to J.D. for sourcing and translation)


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