Chiapas Christmas Message Calls for Peace and Justice

Bishop of San Cristobal Makes an Appeal

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SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico, DEC. 24, 2002 ( Without justice there is no lasting peace, and without justice and peace there is no real Christmas, says a bishop in Chiapas.

In his Christmas message Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal reminded the faithful that the Church and Christians must not reduce their identity and mission to being a social service agency or a pressure group.

The principal task of the Church is to give glory to God, to evangelize and to celebrate the “signs of his sacramental presence among us,” he wrote in his message.

The bishop emphasized, however, that God is glorified when man and woman — his images — live worthily and in peace with one another. “The glory of God is not dissociated from justice and peace among all people,” he stated.

The strife-wary state of Chiapas lives under the fear that the warlike actions of 1994 will be repeated.

The conflict in the southern state broke out Jan. 1, 1994, the day when militants of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) rose in arms in the name of Indian rights. The ensuing 12 days of clashes with government troops left more than 120 dead, according to official sources (400 dead, according to the EZLN).

Peace talks between the government and the Zapatistas broke down last year after Congress approved a weakened version of an Indian rights bill the rebels supported.

Given that the establishment of a stable and lasting peace calls for the rejection of injustice, the bishop of San Cristobal said that persistent poverty, illiteracy, and the absence of infrastructures must be overcome.

In addition, racism must be surmounted and the Indians’ legitimate rights must be recognized, he said. Peasants must be given opportunities for work and worthy salaries, the bishop added.

“Therefore, for our Christmas to be as Jesus would like it to be, let us ratify our commitment to work for peace and justice,” Bishop Arizmendi concluded.

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