1998 NCC News Archives
NCC Officials Sign Statement Urging U.S., Mexico
NEW YORK, March 26, 1998 -- The president, immediate past president, and general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC) are among more than 300 religious leaders from the U.S. and around the world who have issued a joint statement urging the Mexican and U.S. governments to end the escalating violence against indigenous communities in Chiapas.
The strong statement, signed by the Rev. Dr. Craig Anderson, NCC President; United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert, NCC Immediate Past President, and the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, NCC General Secretary, calls on the two governments to address the "pattern of tolerance" for paramilitary groups like the one responsible for the massacre of 45 Tzotzil Indians in Acteal on December 22, 1997.
Church World Service, the disaster relief, human development and refugee assistance ministry of the NCC, responded to the Acteal massacre with blankets, food, medicines and a $30,000 appeal for longer-term material assistance for survivors and refugees.
Since the Acteal massacre, the military has stationed an additional 5,000 troops in indigenous communities in the highlands of Chiapas, bringing the current total number of soldiers to more than 40,000. An estimated 300 to 600 people have been killed as a direct result of the military and paramilitary violence since the 1994 cease-fire, according to reports by local human rights organizations and press. An estimated 10,000 people in the area have been displaced.
"We, the undersigned religious leaders, call on the governments of Mexico and the United States to examine official policies that have resulted in stalled peace talks and repeated explosions of violence in Chiapas. Resolute action is urgently needed to de-militarize the conflict and achieve a negotiated resolution," reads the statement, sent this week to both President Zedillo and President Clinton. "Any attempt at a military solution in Chiapas will only lead to more bloodshed and unrest, a loss of credibility for the Mexican government, and strained U.S.-Mexico relations," it says.
The religious leaders are calling on the Clinton administration to re-examine its policy on military assistance and training to Mexico and on the Mexican government to take immediate action to disarm paramilitary groups active in Chiapas. The statement also calls on government officials to implement the 1996 San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture as a necessary step to renewed peace talks.
SIPAZ (Servicio Internacional para la Paz/International Service for Peace) initiated the statement in coordination with Raśl Vera, Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas. In addition to the NCC leaders, the statement is endorsed by 31 Roman Catholic bishops, numerous heads of religious congregations, denominational executives, and leaders of other faith-based organizations. The statement is also endorsed by religious leaders from 13 other countries, including Switzerland, Guatemala, Kenya, and Mexico.
Writer: Wendy S. McDowell
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