By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
A non-profit Catholic organization announced this week in San Diego that it will start a pilot program in three Mexican states that will aim to contribute to peace building in Mexico.
Lynnette Asselin, Mexico’s representative for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), said that the Catholic organization is working closely with Mexican Catholic Church officials to implement a program that will offer workshops and conferences in parishes to train priests and laity in peace building techniques.
“We’re trying to contribute to peace in Mexico,” Asselin said. “The violence throughout the country has affected everyone.”
Since 2007, Mexico has experienced increasing levels of violence due to drug trafficking. States such as Guerrero, Veracruz, and Chihuahua, where the pilot program will begin, have seen some of the worst of violence.
Asselin said that since the majority of Mexicans are Catholics, the Catholic Church “has the on-the ground ability to reach the majority of the population in Mexico. Almost every other pueblo in Mexico has some king of Catholic religious program, so we will reach a lot of people.”
Asselin was in San Diego this week to present these new programs at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, at the University of San Diego, a Catholic university.
She said professors and leaders at USD were thrilled with the idea, since the university works very closely with the church and other organizations in Tijuana, which has experienced its share of the violence in recent years.
Asselin said CRS has considered Tijuana to be one of the first cities to implement the new programs in the next few months. Guerrero, Veracruz, and Chihuahua (home state to the violent Ciudad Juarez), are the first three states where CRS plans to start the programs as early as July, she said.
The main objective of the program is to develop initiatives that give hope against the violence, she added.
“It all will start at the local parishes, and then Catholics can take that message to their communities, and promote an atmosphere of peace,” Asselin said. “It’s an approach against violence from a Christian perspective.”
She said that every Sunday, Catholic congregations throughout Mexico pray for peace in their communities.
The program will start at Catholic parishes, but in the long-term, CRS plans to take the program to other civil and religious organizations throughout Mexico, Asselin said.
James DeHarpporte, Catholic Relief Services West Regional Director in San Diego, said that these programs are just an example of how CRS and the Catholic Church in general are working to resolve conflicts throughout the world with a Christian message.
“One of the principles of the Catholic Church is the dignity of every human being,” DeHarpporte said. “It is our goal to reduce violence in Mexico so that society can be more peaceful.”
He encouraged all San Diegans to get involved in helping Mexico resolve its violence problems.
“This is not only a Mexican problem,” he said. “As neighbors, actions in Mexico affect both sides of the border. We welcome everyone to become part of the solution.”
To learn more about Catholic Relief Services, please visit www.crs.org.