Chiapas´ Lingering Problems Run Deep, Bishop Warns

Promotes Reconciliation with Protestants

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MEXICO CITY, DEC. 11, 2001 ( A bishop publicly expressed his concern over the serious and still-unresolved problems of the state of Chiapas.

«The deep-rooted problems subsist, namely, marginalization and poverty,» Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas said in statements published Sunday by El Diario de Yucatan.

«This really worries us because, according to data of the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics, those regions have passed from ´marginalization´ to ´high marginalization,´ which is at the root of intercommunitarian conflicts,» he said.

The bishop said that many enterprises that hoped to invest in Chiapas have withdrawn and, to date, the ongoing tensions in the region have kept away other investors.

He also noted that Chiapas has the lowest percentage of Catholic faithful in Mexico, 64% of the local population.

Between 1980 and 1990, the number of Catholics in the state decreased by 11%. Usually the faithful who left the Church joined Protestant denominations. In the last decade the number of Catholics declined a further 3%.

The growth of Protestant communities, and the armed tension that broke out Jan. 1, 1994, have triggered confrontations between communities, often of Indian origin.

Bishop Arizmendi said this is why he is promoting meetings with various religious groups, to prove that religion is a factor that fosters peace, not destruction.

Thanks to the work of the Catholic Church, he said, various groups have returned to their places of origin, as is the case of the Indians of the Justo Sierra community, in the municipality of Las Margaritas.

«On the 14th I will have an ecumenical meeting in the community of Yaxchemel, to implement the reconciliation agreement between those who have returned and those who were living in the place, in order to avoid the development of situations that will end in the expulsion of one group or the other,» Bishop Arizmendi said.

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