Remembering Las Abejas

On December 22, 1997, in the small community of Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico, a community known as Las Abejas, was gathered in the church to fast and pray for peace.

At 11 am, violence erupted on the scene as a group of paramilitaries came into the church and began firing guns at the community. (Many of these guns were of the kind that only the military use, so this is one sign of actual Mexican government complicity in this event). After several hours the shooting ceased.

By this time 45 people had been killed, mostly women and children but also some men. Others were wounded and many had fled. We know of at least one person who died with prayers for forgiveness on his lips. Although there was a huge military presence in the area and calls were made for help no help came. (Another sign of government complicity in this event).

This event was part of efforts by the Mexican army to weaken support for the Zapatista movement in Chiapas. However, this community did not belong to the Zapatistas and had made themselves well-known as a group that believed in peace: it promoted peace and was against violence.

To date the real perpetrators of this crime have not been brought to justice. The Mexican government hopes that it will just be forgotten. But it is not forgotten. Las Abejas continues to call for justice and they have many supporters throughout the world.

Here in Toronto we have not forgotten.

To remember the victims of Acteal and to be in support of Las Abejas in their struggle for justice there will be an ecumenical prayer vigil at St. Ann's Catholic Church (at Gerrard and Degrassi, just east of Broadview on the Carlton Streecar line) at 7:30 pm on Thursday, December 20.

Peace be with you this Advent Season,

Sr. Jean Leahy, CSJ