ROME – Several Latin American countries continue to grapple with the ripple effects of social revolts and violence, leading the local bishops to speak up, and even form unusual alliances.
Mexico, a day without women
Alarmed by statistics that claim over 2,300 women were murdered last year, most of them by their partners, and alarmed by three high-profile murders in recent months, including a 7-year-old girl named Fatima who was abused and murdered after being abducted outside her school on Feb. 11, feminist organizations are calling for women across the country to go on strike March 9, to show what Mexico would be like without women.
As has been the case in other Latin American countries, the fight against “femicides” is often entangled with abortion rights in by feminist groups.
However several bishops have decided to support the strike, while emphasizing their respect for the right to life.
“As a church, we support that which is in favor of women from the moment of their conception until their natural death,” said Bishop Pedro Mena Diaz, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Yucatan.
Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinoza of Puebla said that it if fair for women to express themselves through a strike to demand actions that guarantee their safety and respect for their lives.
The bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, Salvador Rangel Mendoza, told a local paper that he had told the religious sisters he lives with that, if on March 9, they decided to do nothing, he’ll be fine with it. He also urged those who will join the rallies nationwide to do so with their faces uncovered – traditionally, many marchers wear hoods – and called on them to be peaceful, and to avoid vandalizing historical monuments, a common practice during feminist marches in Latin America.
“I believe that nobody has the right to destroy the national heritage and that goes beyond the norms and the law,” the bishop said.
On Monday, the leadership of the Mexican bishops’ conference had released a statement expressing their deep sadness over the violence against women, “which has expressed itself in a new and aggressive way, so cruel as to generate confusion, pain, bitterness, sadness, tears, indignation, helplessness and many wishes for vengeance.”
“We ask all believers and people of good will to do everything possible to prevent violence from growing and spreading, in a special way we invite everyone to respect women and recognize the right they have, to promote their dignity, guaranteeing their freedom and integrity in our society,” the bishops said.
“We totally reject murders and especially femicides and ask the authorities to apply laws against aggressors,” the statement continued.
Chile, a call to reject violence
“Violence harms us deeply, and it cannot but be rejected and combated with the instruments of the law,” said Archbishop Celestino Aos of Santiago, the country’s capital, on Ash Wednesday.
Talking about the violence stemming from protests that began late last year, Aos said that the violent scenes of the authorities struggling to maintain public order generates a “visible damage that impedes us from seeing with clarity the problems and focus on finding solutions.”
“Certainly, neither injustice nor violence are the path of Jesus,” he said. “We are already tired of injustice; we are already tired of violence. For this reason, we have to tackle the root problems, for a peace that doesn’t come as a result of the integral development of everyone won’t have a future either, and will always be the seed for new conflicts and for various forms of violence.”
Nicaragua, violence against the church continues
Ever since the public demonstrations against the government of Daniel Ortega began in early 2018, civil authorities have often clashed with the leadership of the Church.
The national hierarchy has struggled to maintain dialogue efforts between the government and protestors, while at the same time serving as a literal “field hospital,” opening cathedrals and churches to those injured by the security forces during rallies, and offering pastoral support for the families of those arrested for political crimes.
As a result, Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have accused the bishops of staging a coup and of meddling in politics.
Bishops have had their cars targeted with gunfire, priests have been arrested, and churches have been put under siege by regime supporters.
In the past week, police officers blocked off the homes of opposition supporters ahead of a Feb. 25 rally organized by the National Coalition in the capital Managua.
Videos sent by local priests to Crux show civil authorities barricading the local cathedral, not allowing people to go in or out. In the nearby city of Matagalpa, an altar boy was violently attacked by pro-Ortega militias who also assaulted the secretary of the Church of San Felipe.
“I remained still, seeing how far the evilness goes,” said Father Roger Garcia, the parish priest.
“For me, these are our political leadership, the authorities … they don’t work in an independent way; they are sent and led by the false shepherds who run Nicaragua,” the priest said. “The false shepherds persecute, devour, eat, kill, outrage their sheep, the people of God.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma
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