“The shadow of death covers our state of Chiapas,” thousands make the pilgrimage for peace.

Screenshot of video by Chiapas Paralelo.

“The shadow of death covers our state of Chiapas (…) “it is not possible to continue to deny reality and say that nothing happens in Chiapas, here anything happens,” they point out.

“Stop organized crime,” “Don’t kill your brothers,” “Justice and Peace,” were some of the messages that thousands of indigenous and mestizos wrote on the canvases they carried during the pilgrimage to commemorate the jubilee year of the bishop of San Cristobal, Samuel Ruiz Garcia; it was also an opportunity to denounce the impact that drug cartels are leaving in Chiapas and to make a new call for peace and justice.

The Diocesan structure built by Bishop Samuel Ruiz García and the priests who accompanied him during the 40 years he was in charge of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, has allowed the parishioners who are part of what they call the Believing People, to confront through their spirituality what can be considered one of the worst crises faced by the population of the state: Hundreds of disappearances, murders, forced recruitments and forced displacement, in the wake of violence left by the drug cartels, who dispute the Chiapas territory and trafficking routes.

On January 25, some 10,000 men and women made a pilgrimage from each of the parishes in the highlands, north and jungle of Chiapas to the cathedral of San Cristobal de Las Casas. Only the parishioners from the municipality of Chicomuselo and Frontera Comalapa, the areas most impacted by the violence, were unable to come out to participate.

This year 2024 is the Jubilee Year on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the bishop, the 50th anniversary of the Indigenous Congress of 1974 -the cornerstone for the birth of organizational structures, among them the EZLN-, the 10th anniversary of the Congress of Mother Earth; and this month marks the 13th anniversary of the death of Samuel Ruiz.

This day, after walking from the entrances to San Cristobal de Las Casas to the Catedral de la Paz, the parishioners of the Ch’ol, Tojolabal, Tseltal, Tsotsil and Zoque peoples, remembered during the religious celebration that Samuel Ruiz, upon leaving the bishopric, was named jCanan Lum, the caretaker of the people, the one who loves and defends them.

At the celebration, which included symbols of Mayan culture, among them an altar with the four cardinal points, they prayed “for peace, for the end of violence generated by organized crime.”

During the homily, the auxiliary bishop, Luis Manuel López Alfaro, was emphatic in pointing out the current situation that the population of Chiapas is going through. “Today they congregate us, they call us to unite in prayer in fasting in pilgrimage in celebration to ask God for peace and to build this peace; this being an urgent task before the shadow of death that is covering our state of Chiapas, and that in recent days has become darker throughout the border with Guatemala.”

“This darkness is generated by criminal groups that fight to see who will control the border with Central America, in their struggle they have run over the communities; they have forced someone to align with them or have to leave their place, losing everything they have worked for during their lives.”

“Those who have resisted,” continued the bishop, “have had their lives made impossible, this has brought pain, suffering, extortion, death, disappeared, displaced communities, communities without free transit, decimated communities.

The religious leader also made a call to the authorities. He said that “it is not possible to continue denying reality and say that nothing happens in Chiapas, here everything happens and we cannot remain silent or be indifferent to so much pain, frustration and impotence when we see ourselves invaded and governed by those who use weapons and violence. We recognize the increase in militarization, but we do not see results”.For their part, the thousands of people who make up the Believing People read a communiqué in which they also recounted the situation they are experiencing and the response they have received from the authorities, who have neither recognized the situation nor halted the actions of organized crime groups.

“As a Believing People we will continue with the construction of peace and paths of hope (we will look for ways of dialogue for the resolution of conflicts, avoiding the logic of violence, discredit, revenge and cruelty, introjected in a great part of our society,” they expressed.

In a press conference given after the celebration, the auxiliary bishop and members of the Vicariate of Justice and Peace and the Believing People, expressed that according to the diagnosis made by the communities, the scenario for the following months in Chiapas is that the war between cartels and the aggressions against the population will continue with greater severity.

They said that in this context there are no conditions for the return of the thousands of people who are now displaced; and they warned of a situation of famine both for the displaced and for those who have remained in the towns, but have not been able to grow crops or sell their products.

At the conference, they again asked the Mexican government to recognize the situation they are going through, and to take measures so that peace can return to the communities.

While the pilgrimage was taking place, clashes between cartels continued in the Lacandon jungle region.

Original text published in Chiapas Paralelo on January 25th, 2024. https://www.chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/chiapas/2024/01/la-sombra-de-muerte-va-cubriendo-nuestro-estado-de-chiapas-miles-peregrinan-por-la-paz/
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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