From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 07:32:49


                     by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--A joint evangelism project in the troubled Mexican 
state of Chiapas, co-sponsored by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 
and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, is being hampered 
by the political unrest in the region, according to four PC(USA) 
visitors who have just returned from there. 
     The Rev. Mark Snelling and Dorothy Morales of Westminster 
Presbyterian Church in Yakima, Wash., Jim Carpenter of First 
Presbyterian Church in Yakima and the Rev. Jefferson Ritchie, 
associate for international evangelism in the Worldwide Ministries 
Division in Louisville, returned recently from a week of meetings 
with pastors, lay evangelists and other leaders of the Presbytery 
of Central North Chiapas. 
     "What we found is that the (indigenous) Zoque people are 
responding to the gospel, but very slowly," the group reported.  
The outreach project now includes a half dozen "missions," but 
there is only one indigenous leader, a Zoque lay evangelist. 
     Central North Chiapas Presbytery hopes that the outreach 
program will eventually produce enough churches and indigenous 
leaders to form a Zoque Presbytery, as has been done with other 
indigenous groups in Mexico -- Chol, Tzeltal and Tzotzil. 
     But the evangelism effort is greatly complicated by the 
political unrest in the region, the delegation reported.  An armed 
uprising against the Mexican government was launched in January 
1994 by an indigenous group calling itself the Zapatista National 
Liberation Front.  An uneasy truce was in effect during the PC(USA) 
delegation's visit, but violence is commonplace in the region. 
     The only Zoque lay evangelist, Celedonio, told the PC(USA) 
visitors that the Zapatistas told him, "You don't have anything to 
say to us, but if you join us, we may listen to you."  Mexican 
church pastors working in the region said they have been told the 
same thing: "Join us (the Zapatistas) or get out.  Those pastors 
said more than 20,000 Zoques have fled the fighting and unrest to 
nearby Guatemala. 
     A bigger problem than the fighting between government troops 
and the Zapatistas, the PC(USA) delegation was told, is that many 
people are taking advantage of the unrest to steal land and 
property and engage in other lawless activity. 
     Accordingly, the National Presbyterian Women of the National 
Presbyterian Church of Mexico organized a nationwide prayer vigil 
for peace in Chiapas on Jan. 26. 
(information for this story supplied by the Rev. Jefferson Ritchie) 
                             # # #  

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
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