Monthly Archives: November 2013

Violencia y Amor en Mexico

La principal diferencia entre las sub-culturas dedicadas a la violaencia en
Mexico y los EE.UU. es que virtualmente todas las familias en Mexico se han
visto afectadas de alguna manera por la “ insecurity “ / inseguridad que
amenaza a muchas areas del pais. Las rutas de viaje estan determinadas por
los reported de “incidentes de seguridad” en ciertas carreteras principales.
Se han tomado precauciones tales como no manejar de noche en cualquier
Carretera, especialmente en las areas rurales y se aconseja no parar por
nadie en cualquier carretera en la noche o durante el dia.

Hemos estado vivendo aqui por solo un año y si sabemos de los efectos del
aumento de la violencia. El hermano de un amigo cercano fue secuestrado
recientemente en un estado vecino para pedir rescate, pero, gracias a la
rapida respuesta de su familia, fue liberado ileso dos dias despues. Nuestro
amigo estaba terriblemente estremecido por el calvario de su familia y Kate
y yo todavia estamos involucrados en la busqueda de maneras de expresar
nuestro amor, preocupacion y soporte.

Hace pocos dias una amiga en los EE.UU. pregunto en un correo electronico,
lo que la Iglesia aqui esta haciendo para responder al aumento de la
inseguridad y la violencia en Mexico. Ella tambien pregunto: “? Hay una
manera en que pudieramos trabajar juntos en esto?.

Despues de preguntarnos si teniamos algo que decir sobre esto, dos
respuestas de los Discipulos e Iglesias UCC a la “inseguridad” necesitan ser
mencionados. En primer lugar esta el hecho de que las Iglesias no se
sienten intimidadas en su trabajo por la violencia que leemos a diario. No
hay reuniones que hayan sido canceladas, no viajes restringidos, no hay
programas suspendidos debido al clima de vioslencia.

El año pasado una furgoneta cargada con los Discipulos de Ciudad Juaraez,
en la noche, se dirigieron a San Luis para la convencion de los hombres,
pero se vieron obligados a parar por una barricada en la carretera, y
articulos personales y la furgoneta fueron robados. Ilesos, los delegados
volvieron a casa en autobus. Este año, intrepidos ante las perdidas del año
anterior, una delegacion, aun mayor, de los hombres y las mujeres,
manejaron desde Ciudad Juarez hasta la convencion anual de los Discipulos
de la Iglesia.
El origen del café comercializado por mujeres Discipulos en San Luis Potosi,
en un ambicioso proyecto de “micro-empresa”, proviene del area mas
peligrosa del Estado. Aunque el café es cultivado por los Discipulos mejeres,
en una region donde se han producido represalias del cartel de drogas, no
hemos oido ni una palabra sobre el peligro que enfrentan las mujeres que
viajan por alli.

En segundo lugar, la Iglesia aqui ayuda a que la vida transcurra con la
ronda regular de las, fiestas y tradiciones de manera que se celebra la
presencia, con nosotros, de aquel cuyo “ el perfecto amor echa fuera el
temor” (I Jn 4:18 ). En este aspecto, pensamos en el pastor Victor y su
esposa que ahora viven y trabajan en Villa Union, una devastante
comunidad pobre en las orillas de Mazatlan, Sinaloa. La mahyoria de los
jovenes de esa comunidad, el pastor Victor nos dijo, ven dos opociones para
su vida: la temporada de pesca, con red, de camaron o participacion a bajo
nivel en el comercio de la droga. Victor y su esposa esperan ampliar la
vision de la juventud para sus vidas. Una nueva oportunidad que ellos
comenzaron a ofrecer, al mudarse a la comunidad era el entrenamiento en
la musica. Otras Iglesias Congregacionales en Sinaloa, el estado con el mas
antiguo y mas grande cartel de la droga en Mexico, estan involucrados en
el servicio a las familias mas vulnerable, al uso de drogas y la participacion
en su comercio.

Las mujeres en varias Iglesias Congregacionales de Sinaloa han iniciado
pequeñas empresas con fondeo financiero de Ministerios Globales. La Iglesia
de Mazatlan sostiene una serie de programas que atienden a los pobres, las
consultas gratuitas de salud, entre ellas. Asi, la vida transcurre en Sinaloa y
otros estados de Mexico, en parte, gracias al testimonio dinamico de
nuestras Iglesias asociadas en regiones conocidas principalmente en los
EE.UU. por su trafico de drogas y los incidentes de violencia.

En estas Iglesias asociadas, los bebes estan dedicados (bautizados), los
matrimonios realizados, cumpleaños reconocidos y se celebra la comunion
de la Cena del Señor. En cierto sentido, todos los que participan en la
adoracion, aqui estan declarando que el amor triunfa sobre el miedo. Como
comunidades de fe que representan “una buena noticia”, miembros de la
Iglesia tambien se preparan para envolver a los que sufren la perdida y el
trauma con un testimonio del amor de Dios, ! Gracias a Dios !

PD: Nos complace saber que recientemente, los populares cruceros
estadounidenses de Los Angeles y otras ciudades de la costa oeste, a
Mazatlan, se reanudaran el proximo año despues de un parentesis de tres
años.

Mil gracias a Alfonso Amparan por su traduccion de este articulo al espanol.

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IP 3:14-15 : “No temais lo que ellos temen, y no se dejen intimidar, pero en sus corazones santificad a Cristo como Señor. Siempre esten listos para
hacer una defense ante cualquiera que exija de ustedes una razon de la
esperanza que hay en vosotros”.

I Jn 4:18 “En el amor no hay temor, sino que el perfecto amor echa fuera el temor.”

On Violence and Love in Mexico

Sign made of confiscated firearms in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez.  Photo by Monica Ortiz Uribe of Fronteras

Sign made of confiscated firearms in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez. Photo by Monica Ortiz Uribe of Fronteras

The major difference between the sub-cultures dedicated to violence in Mexico and the U.S. is that virtually every family in Mexico has been affected in some way by the “inseguridad”/insecurity that hovers over many areas of the country. Travel routes are determined by the reports of “incidents of insecurity” on certain major highways. Precautions are taken such as not driving at night on any highway especially in rural areas and one is advised to stop for no one on any highway at night or daytime.

We’ve been living here for just a year now and yes we know the effects of the rise in violence. The brother of a close friend was kidnapped for ransom recently in a neighboring state but, thanks to the quick response of his family, was released unharmed two days later. Our friend was terribly shaken by the family’s ordeal and Kate and I are still involved in finding ways to express our love, concern and support.

A few days ago a friend in the U.S. asked in an email what the church here is doing to respond to the rise in insecurity and violence in Mexico. She also asked, “Is there a way we could work together on this?”

After wondering if we had anything to say on this, two responses of the Disciples and UCC churches to the “insecurity” need to be mentioned. First is the fact that the churches are not intimidated in their work by the violence we read about on a daily basis. No meetings have been cancelled, no

Civilian possession of "military grade firearms", including automatic assault weapons, is also prohibited in Mexico.

Civilian possession of “military grade firearms”, including automatic assault weapons, is also prohibited in Mexico.

trips curtailed, no programs avoided because of the climate of violence.
Last year a van loaded with Disciples from Ciudad Juarez headed at night to San Luis for the men’s convention but was forced to stop by a roadblock and personal items and the van were stolen. Unhurt, the delegates returned home by bus. This year, undaunted by the losses of the previous year, an even larger delegation of men and women drove from Juarez for the Disciples Church’s annual convention.

The source of the coffee marketed by San Luis Potosi Disciples women, in an ambitious “microenterprise” project, comes from the most dangerous area of the State. Although the coffee is grown by Disciples women in a region where drug cartel reprisals have taken place, we have not heard a word about the danger faced by the women traveling there.

Secondly, the Church here helps life go on with the regular round of holidays and traditions in a way that celebrates the presence with us of the one whose “perfect love drives out fear” (I Jn 4:18). In this regard, we think of Pastor Victor and wife now living and working in Villa Union, a devastatingly poor community on the outskirts of Mazatlan, Sinaloa. Most youth in that community, Pastor Victor told us, see two options for their lives: seasonal netting of shrimp or low level involvement in the drug trade. Victor and his spouse hope to broaden the youth’s vision for their lives. One new opportunity they began to offer on moving to the community was training in music. Other Congregational Churches in Sinaloa, the state with the oldest -and biggest?- drug cartel in Mexico, are involved in serving families most vulnerable to use of drugs and involvement in their trade.

Women in several Sinaloa Congregational churches have started small businesses with funding support from Global Ministries. The Mazatlan Church carries out an array of programs serving the poor, free health consultations among them. So life goes on in Sinaloa and other states of Mexico in part thanks to the dynamic witness of our partner churches in regions primarily known in the U.S. for their drug trafficking and incidents of violence.

In these partner churches, babies are dedicated, marriages performed, birthdays acknowledged and the Communion of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. In a sense, all of those who participate in worship here are declaring that love triumphs over fear. As communities of faith representing that “good news”, Church members are also prepared to enfold those who do experience loss and trauma with a witness to God’s love. Thanks be to God!

P.S. : We were pleased to learn recently that the popular U.S. cruises from Los Angeles and other West coast cities to Mazatlan will resume next year after a three year hiatus.
******** ******* ******* ********
I P 3:14-15: “Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”

“There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear.” I Jn 4:18

The Conquest and Christianity

Cortes and troops were dazzled as they entered the "capital of the Western world", Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) on November 8, 1519.

Cortes and troops were dazzled as they entered the “capital of the Western world”, Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) on November 8, 1519.


The Spanish conquest and colonisation of the New World soon led to a debate over enslavement of the Indian native population decades before the rest of Europe confronted the horror and injustice of the enslavement of Africans. This was due in large part to a few prophetic priests’ fierce criticism of their fellow countrymen’s treatment of Indians. The leading defender of the Indians, Father Bartholomew De las Casas, devoted himself for fifty years to enactment of labor reform in the Spanish colonies and to proclaiming the liberty and equality of the original inhabitants.

Sent in 1502 to manage the properties of his father in the Domincan Republic, De las Casas himself owned Indian slaves before he was converted to protect and defend the Indians by some powerful preaching and by his studies of the Bible. Consecrated as a priest by the Dominicans in 1510, he heard Father Antonio de Montosinos preach in the cathedral of Santo Domingo against all forms of oppression and exploitation. Anticipating the furious response to his sermon, Father de Montosinos chose the text, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness”. His congregation included the colony’s highest officials who demanded the priest retract his views in the following Sunday’s sermon.

Prior to the next Sunday’s sermon, the Prior of the Dominican community assured the officials that Father de Montosinos spoke for all the priests serving the colony. With this backing from his superior, the indomnitable de Montosinos based his sermon on Job 36:3 the following Sunday and added to his denunciations of injustices the proclamation that the sacraments would be denied any slave holder in the colony.

It seems important to note that the views of Father De las Casas on the treatment of the colonies’ natives were slow in evolving. Father de Montesinos mentored De las Casas with the warning, “the truth has ever had many enemies and falsehood many defenders”. Consecrated a priest at age 36, his first charge was managing a property and converting Indians in Cuba. Having witnessed gruesome attacks by Spaniards on “rebellious” Indians and the routine mistreatment of their laborers by the Spanish settlers, the turning point for the middle aged priest came on Pentecost 1514.

Searching for an appropriate text for the celebration of the birthday of the church, De Las Casas came upon the words of Eccl 34: “He that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully gotten, his offering is ridiculous, and the gifts of unjust men are not accepted. The most High is not pleased with the offerings of the wicked; neither is He pacified for sin by the multitude of sacrifices….He that taketh away his neighbor’s living, slayeth him;

Father Bartholomew de las Casas was converted to the cause of the Indians in 1514 and labored tirelessly on their behalf until his death in 1566 at age 92.

Father Bartholomew de las Casas was converted to the cause of the Indians in 1514 and labored tirelessly on their behalf until his death in 1566 at age 92.

and he that defraudeth the laborer of his hire is a bloodshedder.” His biographer tells us of the impact of this text and his sermon on the preacher: “until then he had been zealous in protecting the Indians against massacre and pillage, but to the injustice of the servitude imposed upon them, he was insensible”.

The sermon’s effect was immediate on the preacher. De las Casas met with the Governor of Cuba to relinquish his properties and his rule over the Indians working there. He further began to make plans for his first of many trips to Spain to plea eloquently for equal rights for the Indians of the New World. The message in Spain on this first trip and all that followed included the conviction that those who ignored the rights of those created in God’s image would be condemned eternally in the court of God’s justice.

It took De las Casas a few years to extend his doctrine of justice and equality for the natives of the New World to the slaves bought on the coasts of Africa. When pressed on one of his first advocacy tours of Spain whether it would be acceptable to replace Indian laborers with African slaves working in Spain or direct from Africa, the defender of the Indians gave his approval to importing Africans as well as Spanish laborers. For nearly one hundred years Spain had bought African slaves from the Portuguese traders and they were a prominent feature of Spanish society especially in Las Casas’ hometown of Seville. De las Casas soon recanted from his support for African slave labor and extended his doctrine of equality and justice for those exploited by European rule to all the world’s colonized people.

Reading accounts of the conquest and colonization of the New World found in the Western Hemisphere one is struck by the consistent reference to conversion of the natives as the primary motive for the daring adventures. Cortes for example masterfully employed advance of the true faith in motivating his small band to enter yet another battle with the Indians. So how could their “championing of the Cross” have resulted in the near total decimation of the Indian population in the colonies of Spain?

Cortes himself explained to an Indian ally the behavior of some of his troops with the following words: “The Spaniards were troubled with a disease of the heart, for which gold was a specific remedy.” De las Casas’ biographer Francis McNutt points to the many temptations of the colonial setting as the background to the outrages of the colonizers: “Perverted as their conception of the true spirit of Christin propaganda may appear to us, it may not be doubted that many of these men were animated by honest missionary zeal and actually thought their singular methods would procure the conversion of the Indians. On the other hand, few of those who left Spain, animated by high motives, resisted the prevalent seductions of avarice and ambitions amid conditions so singularly favorable to their gratification.”

The great 19th century historian of the conquest William Prescott provided another explanation of the Spanish sins in their colonies: “Religion in that day was one of form and elaborate ceremony. In the punctilious attention to discipline, the spirit of Christianity was permitted to evaporate.” This sounds like something we need to be attentive to and avoid in our own day.

POST SCRIPT: Hatuey, an Indian chief in the first Spanish colony in the West, was urged to convert to Christianity before being burned at the stake so his soul would enter heaven. He asked if the white man would be there and when answered affirmatively, he responded, “Then I will not be a Christian, for I would not go again to a place where I must find men so cruel.”

For further reading on the era of Spanish conquest and the struggle to ameliorate the treatment of the native population:

Francis Augustus MacNutt, Bartholomew de las Casas; his life, apostolate and writings

Bartholomew de las Casas, A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies

Bernal Diaz del Castillo, The Memoirs of the Conquistador, a remarkable account of the conquest of Mexico by one of Cortes’ troops

William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico