Diocese in Chiapas Urges Dialogue to Keep Peace

Zapatistas Press Claims for Indian Autonomy

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SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico, MAY 11, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In the facing of growing tensions in the state of Chiapas, the Church is appealing to Catholics “to increase efforts at dialogue to overcome the divisions.”

The Diocese of San Cristóbal fears that “the risk that paramilitary groups and violence will be strengthened” in the wake of congressional approval of an Indian-rights bill last month.

“It is our obligation to state that peace and justice are possible and to offer our effort and participation, strengthened by prayer, fasting, and other religious acts, to achieve them,” says a letter to the faithful, signed by Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel and the members of the pastoral council.

The approved Indian-rights bill was different from the version supported by the rebel Zapatista Army of National Liberation, and the Concord and Pacification Commission.

The Zapatistas spurned the measure and broke off peace talks with the government.

The rebels are appealing for regional autonomy for Indian zones, in the area of native languages, traditional forms of government, and law based on councils of elders or village assemblies. The congressional version limits the autonomy of localities and subjects norms to the approval of state legislatures.

The Zapatistas have called a protest for next Monday, and organized forums and collected signatures to get local lawmakers to exert pressure and change the law.

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ZENIT Staff

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