Magazine article The Christian Century

Church Persecution in Chiapas Claimed

Magazine article The Christian Century

Church Persecution in Chiapas Claimed

Article excerpt

The Roman Catholic Church in the embattled southern state of Chiapas in Mexico is facing increased government persecution that is likely to continue for some time, according to a group of New York lawyers and human rights activists. Jose Morin, one of the attorneys who met with Bishop Samuel Ruiz recently in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, said accusations by the Mexican government that Ruiz and other clergy have encouraged the formation of a guerrilla movement of indigenous peoples amounted to "a shameful exhibition" of lies.

Morin charged that the government is using recent events to tarnish Ruiz, who has often been critical of the government. "If in fact those accusations are true, why haven't they [the dergy] been arrested or why hasn't action been taken against them?" Morin remarked following a January 11 news conference in New York to report on a four-day fact-finding tour of the region. In fact, Morin said, the church has not had to instigate anything because the people of Chiapas so dearly feel the weight of government oppression-without the churchs input.

Morin, along with attorney Sara Rios and human rights activist Cecilia Rodriguez, was invited by Ruiz and members of the Mexican human rights network to investigate abuses in Chiapas in light of events which began January 1. A group of guerrillas, calling itself the Zapatista National Liberation Army, declared war on the Mexican government to protest economic and social inequalities in the impoverished region, which borders Guatemala. Following that declaration, and the guerrillas' takeover of several towns, the government ordered a crackdown on the uprising.

At the January 11 news conference, members of the delegation, associated with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, claimed that the American media portrayal of events in Chiapas and what is actually happening are two different things. The Mexican government, the delegation members said, is surrounding the Chiapas area and attempting to destroy as many indigenous communities as possible.

"Basic to an understanding of the conflict in Chiapas is a recognition of the enormous poverty [of] and discrimination [against] its indigenous population and the virulent neglect of the area by the Mexican government," Rodriguez said, reading from a prepared statement. …

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