From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
EVANGELISM EFFORTS IN CHIAPAS SLOWED BY UNREST
05 May 1996 07:32:49
95037 EVANGELISM EFFORTS IN CHIAPAS SLOWED BY UNREST
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
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
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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