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Mexican churches act together to support families in their campaign for missing relatives

Posted on: February 18, 2020 12:51 PM
Human rights activist Ana Sepulveda carries pieces of cloth with names of missing or killed people, during a protest last month (26 January) against violence in Mexico City.

[ACNS, by Staff Writer] The Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches in Mexico have joined forces to support families who are campaigning for the return of tens of thousands of missing people. The missing are victims of the increasing violence spurred on by drugs cartels. Most are thought to have been killed.

A year ago, Mexico’s minister for human rights, Alejandro Encinas, told journalists that government estimates put the number of missing at 40,000. He said that the government knew of more than 1,100 secret graves; and that local coroners had 26,000 unidentified corpses. The figures “give you an idea of the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis and the human rights violations we are dealing with,” he said.

A year on, and today it is estimated that some 60,000 people are missing, with more than 30,000 unidentified bodies in local morgues.

In February 2019, the Mexican government announced plans to deal with the problem, including the creation of five regional forensic identification institutes. Today, work has begun only on one, in Coahuila. The government also announced plans for 15 new forensic cemeteries and the creation of a national genetic database. Campaigners say that this has not happened. In addition, the government said that they would welcome support from the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, but so far the Committee has not received the necessary authorisation to enter Mexico.

Some 71 groups of relatives are currently taking part in a 15-day campaign to raise awareness of their plight and search for their graves, during what has been called the Fifth National Brigade of Search for Missing Persons (known by the initials VBNB from its Spanish name).

The 15-days, which concludes on Saturday (22 February), began with an ecumenical service at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Papantla, Veracruz. A number of Anglican clergy took part in the service, including Bishop Julio César Martín, the Coadjutor Bishop of Southeastern Mexico. He had accompanied the families on a march through Papantla.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Papantla, Bishop José Trinidad Zapata, called for more support to be provided to the families. He also said that Church groups of all denominations should support the work of the VBNP.

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The Roman Catholic Bishop of Bishop of Papantla, Trinidad Zapata, welcomes Doña Mary Herrera, Triny Radilla and other families of the missing to his cathedral in Papantla, Veracruz.
Photo: IAM

On Sunday 9 February the Anglican Bishop of Western Mexico, Ricardo Gómez Osnaya, led a vigil service for the families in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Guadalajara, Jalisco. A similar service was held in the Anglican Parish of the Sagrada Familia, in Mexico City, by Anglican priest Arturo Carrasco, who had earlier told the Synod of the Diocese of Mexico about the work of the VBNB.

A spokesperson for the families, Mary Herrera from the Network of National Links, said that the campaign was non-violent action in favour of peace. They were not seeking the guilty, but were seeking their loved ones, she said, as she called for the violence to stop.