Gospel Peace vs Gang Law | God's World News

Gospel Peace vs Gang Law

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    State police maintain a security checkpoint at the entrance of Chilpancingo, Mexico, in February. Four Roman Catholic bishops met with Mexican drug cartel bosses to negotiate a peace accord. (AP/Alejandrino Gonzalez)
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    People walk near the Cathedral in Chilpancingo, Mexico. (AP/Alejandrino Gonzalez)
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    Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in 2018 after campaigning with a motto of “hugs, not bullets.” (AP/Marco Ugarte)
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    A police officer stands guard in Maravatio, Michoacan state, Mexico, in late February. Two candidates for mayor were killed in the area within hours of each other. (AP/Fernando Llano)
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    Demonstrators block the highway that connects Mexico City and Acapulco in Chilpancingo, Mexico, in 2023. According to officials, the demonstration was organized by a gang aiming to force the release of two detained gang leaders. (AP/Alejandrino Gonzalez)
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How do you get violent drug cartels to talk to each other? Call the church.

In late February, Roman Catholic churchmen helped arrange a truce between two warring cartels. The gangs wage bloody turf battles in southern Mexico’s state of Guerrero.

Bishops and priests arranged multiple talks with cartels as part of efforts to negotiate territory and save lives.

Reverend José Filiberto Velázquez had knowledge of the meetings but did not participate in them. He says the discussions are between leaders of the famously brutal Familia Michoacana cartel and the Tlacos gang.

The mediation efforts led to a halt in organized violence. But Velázquez admits the agreement “hangs by a thread.”

Earlier in February, a bishop in Guerrero said he and three other bishops talked with cartel bosses to pursue a peace accord in a different area. Those talks failed. Drug gangs didn’t want to stop fighting over territory in the Pacific coast state. The clashes shut down transportation in at least two cities. Dozens of people have died in recent months.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador approves of the talks. His “hugs, not bullets” policy means the government avoids direct confrontation with cartels.

López Obrador shifted resources to social programs that are designed to address root causes of violence. But Mexico still has more than 35,000 homicides per year. Average citizens are left to work out their own peace deals with gangs.

Cartels control a dozen or more mid-size cities. The cartels and gangs don’t just sell or smuggle drugs. They also extort money from nearly every line of business in territories they control. The prices of most products are higher because cartels charge a “tax.”

One parish priest lives in a town in Michoacan state. His area has been dominated by one cartel or another for years. The church is forced to protect citizens, and some tasks are especially grievous. Local residents urge him to ask cartel bosses about the fate of missing relatives.

“We wouldn’t have to do this if the government did its job right,” the priest says. He did not provide his name for security reasons.

Many average Mexicans quietly agree to pay protection payments to cartels. They fear attacks or having homes or businesses burned. The church also suffers. Priests have died.

Retired Bishop Salvador Rangel notes truces often don’t last long. Still, he says, “There are other groups that want peace. They no longer want war. They no longer want to be killing each other. I want to take advantage of that desire to bring peace.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. — Matthew 5:9

Why? Governments are instituted to protect citizens. But governments may fail, and the church acts as protector of the vulnerable.

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