Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Mexico's Troubles Need New Religious Task Force

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Mexico's Troubles Need New Religious Task Force

Article excerpt

Commandante Marcos and about 1,000 Mexicans -- for whom Spanish is, at best, a second language -- last week put their lives on the line for Mexico's poor. What should be the response of the North American religious community?

As a starter, we need a Religious Task Force on Mexico.

No community in the world has greater resources for assisting Mexico's poor in their cry to be heard than that great pool of Americans and Canadians who for more than two decades in Central and South America have responded to those cries.

The religious, priests and laypeople for whom Central and South American poverty has been a living reality, along with North Americans who have served in Mexico, represent networking power capable of assisting Mexico's poor to transform themselves. In addition, they have the experience and wisdom of dealing with the lies and half-truths in which all governments take refuge when the poor demand to be heard. In other words, we are hearing and will continue to hear stories we have heard many times before.

Let's go back in time to reexamine how much experience we do have.

In the 1960s, with Pacem in Terris (John XXIII's 1963 encyclical), Populorum Progressio (Paul VI's 1967 encyclical) and Vatican II (1962-65) under their belts, Catholics -- particularly North American Catholic missioners -- looked penetratingly at the world around them.

Their "extraordinary concern for the poor" (to quote from Penny Lernoux's final book, Hearts on Fire, recently published by Orbis) became their common bond. "The preferential option for the poor," became their mantra.

The years began to roll.

In the 1970s, the missioners had been reinforced by lay volunteers, supported in the United States and Washington by networks and task forces. Working with the poor, they learned endurance and charity and grew in faith. All saw the poor gaining strength. …

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