CHIAPAS, MEXICO: Palm Sunday Prayers for Peace
March 29, 1999
Chiapas, Mexico: Palm Sunday Prayers for Peace
Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Chiapas, together with 13 members of
the indigenous pacifist group Las Abejas (the Bees) launched a series of Holy
Week Prayer Vigils by holding an hour-long worship service on Palm Sunday.
The peacemakers gathered for reflection and prayer at the foot of three Mayan
crosses located on a ridge between the refugee village of X'oyep (Show-yep')
and a nearby military base.
When soldiers interrupted the worship circle, the Abejas asked them to leave.
"Since you are not angels, you have no right to be here by our sacred
crosses," they said. As soon as the prayer service concluded, the soldiers
returned to the area to unload sandbags.
In the small county of Chenalho where X'oyep is located, the Mexican army has
established twenty military bases and stationed 2000 soldiers, one for every
twelve inhabitants. These "civic action" camps offer medical and dental care,
free meals, and a host of other services to community residents. But the
people of X'oyep and many other villages in Chenalho want nothing to do with
the military's handouts.
When soldiers strolled into X'oyep in January, 1998 toting their M-16s and
offering the refugees "protection," the women of the community surrounded them
and forced them to leave. There has been a tense co-existence ever since the
soldiers set up camp just down the road from the village.
About 10,500 people in Chenalho have fled their villages due to
paramilitary violence in the past 18 months. Many of them hold the military,
the police, and high-level government officials responsible for the December,
1997 massacre of 45 Abejas in Acteal carried out by paramilitary groups.
Acteal and X'oyep, about 4 hours walk from each other over steep mountain
trails, are the two villages where the majority of the 2500 displaced members
of Las Abejas have taken refuge.
CPTers and Las Abejas will continue in prayer and fasting each day this week
in a small hut at the entrance to the military base near X'oyep. On Easter
Sunday, they intend to plant corn, the Mayan symbol of life, on the grounds of
the base as a way of reclaiming the land for life-giving purposes.
CPT invites people of faith around the world to join in Holy Week prayers for
a miraculous closing of the base and for the end of oppression of indigenous
Current team members include Claire Evans (Chicago, IL); Anne Herman
(Binghamton, NY); Cliff Kindy (N. Manchester, IN); and Lynn Stoltzfus