Religion and the roots of civilization
[Leer en español.]
RELIGION HAS ALWAYS been indispensible for civilization. All societies have been forged in reference to religion. No matter which faith has been dominant, it is faith that has molded the thinking and customs of the earth's incredible diversity of people.
Religion is also the basis for morality and law. It transmits spiritual values, such as love, hope, faith, peace and liberty. Religion likewise suppresses vices such as hatred, pessimism, pride, betrayal, slavery, etc. In this way, religion functions as a cornerstone of civilization, constitutions, codes and laws. And for the same reasons, religion has been the basis for education.
In Ciudad Juárez, situated in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, religious groups have made their presence known in the city streets, seeking the repentance of the sicarios - the cartel hitmen - as well as the community at large. This is all due to the four years the city has suffered through extraordinary numbers of murders carried out by bands of narcotraffickers. This city has witnessed almost 10,000 killings, while the country of Mexico has amassed nearly 50,000 dead.
This reality has prompted religious groups to "materialize" their Christian expressions in an effort to encourage their city by being sources of love, faith, hope, repentance, and all the values and principles they preach about in their churches. Young people from Juárez's local churches have developed unusual ways of expressing their religion, directed at the general population and targeting the killers and cartel members.
They are praying for and preaching the Christian message to the entire city, and they have taken over some of the most important intersections of Ciudad Juárez. Their enormes placards offer motorists "express prayers" while they wait at traffic lights and stop signs. These young people also pray for pedestrians who pass by on the sidewalks. To add to the spectacle, some dress as angels.
Using these different techniques, evangelical churches have begun an effort to bring hope, peace, restoration, encouragement and faith to a city that has been savagely beaten by violence and insecurity.
"Do you want us to pray for you? Do you have a need, pain, discouragement?", Pastor Gustavo Arango, of the JOPE Christian Center, inquires of a driver waiting for a green light. The driver accepts Arango's offer of a prayer and explains that he does need spiritual comfort.
The group accompanying Pastor Arango carries large multi-colored signs that read: "We want to pray for you." They hope the signs communicate how warmly they welcome their fellow Juarenses. No one that passes by could miss the display.
The groups greets everyone. Of course some are surprised, perhaps uncomfortable, and continue on their way. But they all carry away a message of hope.
In another part of the city, the signs carry a more direct message. Some 25 young people dressed in flowing white tunics and 7-foot wings aim to prick the consciences of the city's criminal networks. "Repent Assassin." or "Corrupt policeman, draw near to God.", the signs demand.