ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 9, 2023 / 16:10 pm (CNA).
The pastor of a church riddled with bullets in an armed confrontation between crime gangs in the border state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico called on the criminals involved to listen to “the voice of God” and to “turn their weapons into plows to till the earth, into instruments to sing and rejoice.”
In a letter shared with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Father Enrique Urzúa, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Guachochi in the Diocese of Tarahumara, addressed the criminals who had clashed on June 5 in the small settlement of Santa Anita, “causing suffering and death.”
“Brothers, listen to the voice of God! I am sure that the vast majority of you are baptized; we are brothers, and even though you are within the ranks of death, our Father and your Father offers you life,” he said.
“We have you in our hearts, yesterday, Wednesday, we prayed for you, for the conversion of your hearts. Turn your weapons into plows to till the land, into instruments to sing and rejoice,” he said.
“How sad to see you among the mountains looking after everything and suffering from hunger and cold. The Lord offers you freedom. My embrace and my prayer for you,” he added.
The confrontation caused destruction both outside and inside the church, with images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. Anne damaged by bullets. Outside the church, authorities found the body of a decapitated man.
Urzúa was able to rescue three abandoned children from the place after the shooting. The youngest is only 1 year old.
The Mass was attended by the victim’s mother, whom the priest identified as a woman from the Rarámuri indigenous community, also known as the Tarahumara.
They damaged ‘the most sacred’
Urzúa also pointed out that, by shooting up the church with bullets, the criminals damaged “what is most sacred to a people that is deeply religious” as well as “the community meeting place, the place where a community lives its history, its depth of life.”
The priest later lamented that “these events are among many others that have not been made public but that have these communities in fear, so we cannot say that this is an isolated event.”
“I ask for help to guarantee peace and freedom for these peoples,” he said.
After thanking people for “their expressions of solidarity” that the Church in the region has received, the Mexican priest asked the faithful to continue “praying for the peace that we so long for; it’s everyone’s duty to find ways that lead us to live in freedom.”
‘When will we be able to return to our homes?’
The priest also recounted the pain manifested by the residents who had to flee Santa Anita fearing for their lives.
“With tears in their eyes and their voices cracking they told me: Father, I have no words to express so much pain; they have hurt us, they have destroyed our towns, our houses; Father, our animals are going to starve, when will we be able to [return to] our homes?” he shared.
Urzúa also prayed to God on the day (June 8) when the Catholic Church celebrates Corpus Christi, for the “civil authorities, so that the Lord may grant them the necessary wisdom in their security strategies.”
Mexico is experiencing the most violent period in its modern history, and the homicide figures for the current six-year term of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have surpassed those of his predecessors, totaling more than 156,136 by the end of May 2023.
López Obrador acknowledged the historic record in his morning press conference on June 1 but attributed it to “a poor security legacy” from previous governments.
Up to April of this year in the state of Chihuahua, 567 first-degree murders were recorded.
From Jan. 1 to June 7 of this year, 11,637 homicides have been recorded throughout Mexico.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
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