Life in this part of Mexico seems quite peaceful, but under the surface not so much. Violence is a targeted affair, meaning that violent acts are not generally aimed at the general population but at other criminals or army. People in general tend to be caught in the cross fire. However, lately there have been attacks on churches of non-Catholic tradition. These are mostly robberies in which armed persons enter the church force people to surrender their money, jewelry and car keys and then leave. So far noboy has been physically assaulted.
Roberto Medina, Coordinator of Proyecto Amistad, thinks that the cartels are mostly Catholic and that is why non-Catholic churches are the targets. For those of us in the U.S. where the relations between Catholics and Non-Catholic Christians is fairly good this conflict seems odd, but in Mexico the history is quite different. Non-Catholics were not welcome in Mexico until 1872 period. Then the government changed the laws trying to transform Mexico into a secular democracy like its neighbor to the north. The next 140 years has seen a great deal of persecution of non-Catholic Christians. I've been in Mexico when Protestant Christians have been killed by supposedly Cahtolic gangs. (Not all non-Catholic traditions are Protestant. Methodism arose long after the Reformation so it is actually not Protestant as that term historical refers to the churches of the Reformation who protested agains the Roman Catholic Church.) Many businesses once refused to hire non-Catholics.
Proyecto Amistad is fighting the violence with the only tool it has, namely, the Bible. They have established children's clubs called "Club Amistad" in neighborhoods with their churches. The club uses materials to teach the parents and the children biblical values for living in a violent world. They focus on teaching that every person is part of God's creation and may be transformed by God to love instead of hate. To tell a person who threatens them that they will pray for them instead of fight them.
Odd, that should come right out of the Sermon on the Mount. They teach that the biblical principles for life create a good community of safety, security, and freedom. To do otherwise results in chaos contrary to the order God created.
On Saturday and Sunday I visited two "Club Amistad" celebrations of a Mexican holiday in honor of children. They mixed worship and teaching with a party. It was great fun. I used my iPad to video and my camera to take still photos. On Sunday afternoon, the children decided it was better to watch the fun through my iPad instead of with their own eyes. (See Photo) Of course, they love seeing themselves in photos. Each club had about 50 children and many parents.
On Sunday they asked me just before the worship to do the talk to the children. I had to think quickly and then think in Spanish. The children seemed to understand me and the Spirit seemed to lead me.
It is strange to live and witness the peacable kingdom in the middle of an area known to most in the U.S. as a place of extreme violence. Yet, here it was.