Chiapas Indians Gather in a Historic Ecumenical Meeting

Bishop Asks for Forgiveness, Urges Protestants to Do the Same

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SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico, SEPT. 10, 2001 ( Indians of different creeds participated in a first-ever ecumenical celebration to pray for peace and reconciliation in this municipality which has been gripped by tension since 1997.

For more than two hours Saturday, Catholic and evangelical Indians, together with Protestant pastors and Catholic Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal, gathered in the courtyard of the local school of Ejido Puebla to pray and sing.

«Let no one raise a hand against another; let no one buy arms,» Bishop Arizmendi exhorted. «If anyone has [arms], let him bury or destroy them, but no more arms.»

The bishop lamented a situation in which religious and political differences among the Indians have caused tragic conflicts. «Brothers, let us forgive one another and continue to build this unity, this reconciliation that God wills,» the bishop implored.

Bishop Arizmendi asked for forgiveness for the offenses that Catholics have committed against their evangelical brothers. At the same time, he requested the Protestants to do the same.

«On behalf of the Catholic Church I ask for forgiveness from brothers and sisters for the offenses that Catholics have committed against you, and we are also ready to forgive the offenses we have received,» the bishop said.

Evangelical pastor Manuel Perez Arias also asked his companions to forgive offenses and not use arms anymore, as was the case in 1997, when bases sympathetic to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation were attacked.

«Alonso,» a foreign Protestant minister of the Christians for Peace Teams, addressed the Indians in the Tzotzil language, and exhorted them to live in unity and forgiveness, and to abandon violence.

Choirs from the Catholic Acteal and the evangelical communities, as well as traditional musical ensembles, played native Indian music.

Bishop Arizmendi invited those present to attend a meeting with evangelical pastors Oct. 9 in Yabteclum.

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