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Mexican Bishops Call for National Dialogue in Favor of Indians

Following Court’s Decision Not to Change the Law

MEXICO CITY, SEPT. 10, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Mexican episcopate is calling for a national dialogue so that indigenous peoples can take their proper place in society, as John Paul II requested during his recent visit.

The bishops’ Commission for Social Pastoral Care published their proposal Sunday, two days after the Supreme Court of Justice rejected more than 300 challenges from activists calling for reforms of the Law of Indian Rights and Culture.

The document, signed by Archbishop Sergio Obeso of Xalapa, commission president, states: “It is up to the whole of Mexican society to discuss in a national dialogue the forms, and present long-term ethical actions to be taken” to apply the Pope’s proposal.

During his July 30-Aug. 1 visit, the Pope said: “Mexico needs its Indians, and the Indians need Mexico!”

The episcopate will offer the “national dialogue” the “contribution of the Church and its social doctrine and experience, both in Mexico as well as other countries, to reconciliation, justice and peace in its cultural diversity.”

“We reiterate that, as the Church, we wish to strengthen our commitment to the Indians,” the document affirms. “It is not possible to continue to live in a Mexico divided by racism and discrimination. The Indian peoples justly deserve the recognition of their cultures, of their way of seeing things, and of their autonomy.”

For his part, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico, told journalists that the court has only stated that the challenges to the law will not proceed. This “does not mean that there are no further ways to seek the well-being of the Indians,” he said.

As is true “for us, Indians cannot eat with laws; they need work, food and medicines,” the cardinal said. He said that the law affecting Indians could be improved. Yet, a perfect law will serve no purpose if projects for development are not implemented, the cardinal stressed.

Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, also favored improvement of the law, but called for acceptance of the legal framework implied by the Supreme Court decision.

“A way of avoiding greater confrontations is that we all respect the law and that the law also respect the rights of Indians,” Bishop Arizmendi added.

He encouraged dialogue and reforms, however, because, in the absence of negotiations for peace in Chiapas, “we are invaded by bitterness, mistrust and pessimism.”

The episcopal commission’s Spanish-language statement may be consulted at www.cem.org.mx.

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