Tuesday, November 14, 2017

If I Could...

In a recent pastoral visit by Bishop Dagoberto Sosa Arriaga to the parish of St. James the Apostle in Acatepec, two young indigenous women shared the following words with the bishop. I suspect that their thoughts reflect what many supporters of Mission Mexico think. Here, in English translation, is part of what they said:

Father Francisco, Bishop Dagoberto, and Father Ruben are received by the villagers of Acaptepec
The Mountain is a beautiful place, beautiful for its views, its people, its cultures. And especially beautiful because we have learned how to live despite all of the adverse circumstances that surround us. We know how to laugh and how to share with others. We are like a log on the campfire, always ready to give heat and light to those who need such. We live with a great hope in a better future, but the uncertainty, the abandonment, the extreme poverty, and the violence force us to ask ourselves if this better future is possible.

The main question is: Why? It’s a simple word that requires big answers—and a big commitment of everyone in this country.
The two young women share their reflections with the bishop
Why do our children, young people, and adults of the indigenous peoples of Mexico (and of other places in the world) have no shoes, no clothing, no food, no decent house, no higher education? Why are we poor and marginalized; why do we die of hunger and thirst? Other people walk around with shoes and clothing and with a full stomach. And some even have cars, planes, helicopters, beautiful houses. And we are made more impoverished by having to pay high fees for taxes, electricity, propane, gasoline, and basic food items.

Why do some have to die before being born, or at a very tender age? Why are there no medicines in our health centers? Why are there no doctors? Why is it that others, who speak other languages and are of a different color, have good salaries, health care, pensions, food, telephone—everything, it seems?
The cemetery in Metlatonoc on the Day of the Dead, on November 2
Why is it that others can live to 70 or 80 or 90? Why do others get to decide our salary and our future? Why are some so incredibly rich and we so miserably poor? Is this what God wants, or is it a decision made by just a few or by those who govern us? Why is there such inequality? Why are there the exploited and the exploiters? Is this what it means to be civilized or to have a conscience? We have received enough fine words. We need concrete actions! We have had enough promises, reforms, and counter-reforms—it seems that these only make us poorer.

Mexico is a rich country, with hard-working people and many natural resources. But what good does this do if our institutions, our politicians, our court system, and even international organizations do not work to see that there is a fair distribution of these goods?
Looking elderly doesn't mean that one is elderly
Why are our decisions not respected among the different institutions of our country? Why are there false promises, electoral fraud, no real democracy? The mass media sells its soul to the highest bidder. The politicians get rich from programs that are supposed to help the poor. People speak about peace, justice, love, charity, respect. Yet we native peoples experience little of that.

Everyone says that we want peace—but there can be no peace without justice, without reconciliation, without a change of attitude and conduct, without meeting the needs of the poor, without an end to repression, without the guidance of the Spirit of God.
Children from Tototepec—hopefully their future is a beautiful one
If I could—if it were in my hands—I would create a different world, where we human beings would be truly human, where there would be no misery, no hunger, no injustices, no violence, no discrimination against the indigenous peoples. A world where we would all love one another and look after one another.

If I could, I would invest in science and technology so that no would have to be hungry, and no one would lack their daily bread (and maybe there could be a little extra for an ice cream or a chocolate bar); no one would have to complain about being a peasant farmer.
There are few "extras" in the lives of the indigenous in the Mountain
If I could, I would look for ways to bring joy to the children and youth and adults, so that they could enjoy every stage of life, so that they could grow as human beings, so that they could interact with creation with joy and dignity, so that there would be no sadness or tears or misery or violence.

If I could, I would break down the walls that separate us as rich and poor, as slaves and free, as natives and non-natives. All humans would be sisters and brothers living in our common home, and there would be no borders to divide us.
Children in Yuvi Nani (long river in na savi)
If I could, I would create educational institutions that provide high-quality education to all. Parents would not have to suffer so much to educate their children; teachers would receive a decent salary.

If I could, I would build better hospitals and see that they were well-equipped and with qualified nurses and doctors. No one would be left out in terms of access to health care, and the health personnel would not discriminate in the case of indigenous patients.
Even those who are elderly have to work if they wish to eat
If I could, I would establish universities that relate to the interests and culture of the peoples. They would be designed to respond to the economic and cultural needs of the people; the goal would not just be to provide a cheap labor force for big business.

If I could, I would demand that our Mother Earth be respected, that there be more concern for the environment. I would work to bring an end to contamination and to the use of poisonous chemicals.
Candles and flowers—essentials if one is going to approach God
If I could, I would see that all reforms are planned, not from a desk in an ivory tower, but in consultation with the peoples affected by such reforms. Everyone would work together for the well-being of all.

If I could, I would work for just laws and legal institutions, where the rich can not buy decisions, where there is no impunity, where there is no corruption. The rich would not be allowed to become richer at the cost of the poor becoming poorer.
When the bishop visits, the women prepare food for all
If I could, I would see that everyone, even the most impoverished, had a dignified home. One of the best ways for this to happen is to offer decent jobs and decent wages.

If I could, I would allow the indigenous people to follow their traditional customs of assemblies and consensus in electing their governing authorities. Political parties often divide and discriminate. Transparency, honesty, and service would be the hallmarks of those who get involved in politics.
Israel, Antonieta, and Baltazar in their school uniforms
If I could, I would work so that our Catholic Church be more committed in evangelizing and combating the structures of death in our villages. The pastoral agents should work to create missionary disciples who organize to bring and to be good news. Our priests should be spiritual guides who, by word and by example, accompany us in our daily struggles.

If I could, I would place these words in the minds and hearts of all present here today, so that we all be sensitive to the struggles of the poor and so that we all do what we can to change this situation. To do nothing is to journey toward a catastrophic and apocalyptic future. We trust in the God of Life and Divine Justice that we will all receive God’s blessing and assistance. Thank you.
Bishop Dagoberto receives a live turkey as a farewell present

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