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Monday, November 29, 2010

Declaration of the Rights of the child

On Saturday, November 22nd Michigan Peace Team was invited to accompany a march and rally held in central park, close to the border. The rally was held in honor of the anniversary of the Declaration of Rights for the Child. Central park is in the middle of a very busy area, one side of the park is located in the business district, and the other with colonias and housing. In the morning we rode with the children on busses that went to the neighborhoods: Mexico 68, Granjas, Divison Del Norte and Primero de Mayo.

After arriving at the park the Centro de Derechos Humanos gave a presentation to the kids on their rights and the rules for the event. The children were asked to make signs and banners for the march that was going to take place. The banners varied but they were all directed towards the rights of children.

The Declaration of the Rights of the Child includes the following principles:

Principle 1
The child shall enjoy all the rights set forth in this Declaration. Every child, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to these rights, without distinction or discrimination on account of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family.

Principle 2
The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

Principle 3
The child shall be entitled from his birth to a name and a nationality.

Principle 4
The child shall enjoy the benefits of social security. He shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including adequate pre-natal and post-natal care. The child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services.

Principle 5
The child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition.

Principle 6
The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support. Payment of State and other assistance towards the maintenance of children of large families is desirable.

Principle 7
The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education, which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.
The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents. The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right.

Principle 8
The child shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief.

Principle 9
The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He shall not be the subject of traffic, in any form. The child shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age; he shall in no case be caused or permitted to engage in any occupation or employment, which would prejudice his health or education, or interfere with his physical, mental or moral development.

Principle 10
The child shall be protected from practices. which may foster racial, religious and any other form of discrimination. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men.

In Juarez, the rights of children, as well as others, are being ignored at an alarming rate. Children in Juarez face an impoverished, dangerous, and unsafe childhood from which the government can offer no protection. The violcence in Juarez is random, all sides are mixed, and no one really knows who they are fighting. The government can not offer protection because they don’t know who they are protecting and who they are fighting, or when the violence is going to happen. Some of our own neighbors our Narco’s, there is nothing we can do but say “Good morning” when we walk by. When its dark outside children must go inside, not because they have school in the morning but because parents do not want them to be taken or killed.

Every day Nina and I listen to gunfire, and know that someone’s life is being taken. Last night there was over 30 gunshots at around 4A.M in the listening proximity of our house. On Friday there was a gunfight wih around ten shots. The violence here never ends.

*NOTE* I will add pictures from the march later today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Juarez is in mourning

Juarez is in mourning. We all know that mourning is a process. For some healing comes after many tears, depression, questioning and pain. MPT has accompanied many families during this time of mourning.

One family had their 18 year old son, the youngest of 3 siblings, assassinated in front of their little store. The mother heard the shots and ran out only to see her son in a pool of blood. He was unrecognizable. She held him in her arms as he took his last breath.

The mother believes that death has cursed her. When she was very young her father died and being the oldest she had to help her mother raise her siblings. She said she worked very hard so that there would be food on the table. She married and when her children were very young her husband died and again she is left alone to raise the children. Now her 18 year old son was assassinated.

Another mother, with two precious little girls age 10 months and 2 years, was with her husband visiting a relative of his in the hospital. He received a call and proceeded to step out of the hospital where he was gunned down. Both the mother and the two year old need psychological help. She is from the southern part of Mexico and longs to be united with family, but paper work takes forever and meanwhile she has no income.

An 82 year old women witnessed the assassination of her nephew and her two sons; the the gunmen left saying that they had made a mistake! Her story is beyond words.

These are just a few of the families that MPT has accompanied. Last week at the grocery store while I was waiting in line a woman started a conversation with me after we both read the headlines of the paper: “Father comes home to find wife and children assassinated.” She proceeded to tell me that the 3 children she had with her had lost both their parents, they had been assassinated!

In this city of Juarez there have been 2,700 assassinations this year, October being the deadliest. The mourning that must be attended to will take months, years, it is said that there is no greater pain than the pain of a mother losing her child. How much more is the pain when the death is such a tragic death and so many parents have witnessed such deaths. Yes Juarez is in mourning.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who will play with the children?

A group that has been working with the children in the colonias has as a goal to create a space for the children to  play together and respect each other, especially during this time of violence. Lately, one of the instructors has had some very difficult situations to deal with.
First, there was word that a white van had picked up two girls and fear was running high as word got around, the children were sent home early. On another occasion the Federales were looking for someone and were knocking at different homes, close to where the children were playing, their masked faces, and machine guns created an atmosphere of terror.
During another session a man appeared at the door and was ready to expose himself. On another occasion a thirteen year old that had been coming to the group and had received a death threat was actually picked up at 11:00 in the morning by armed men, the same instructor was meeting with a group of women when this occurred.
The fear that is growing in this colonia in the children, women and now their instructor is causing people to just want to go into their homes and lock their doors. Those who can move away do so.

Who will play with the Children? MPT has accompanied this group but will they continue to meet?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Friend of MPT sequestered in Juarez

A young man and I (Angie) have been working in the community and with youth since my arrival here in Juarez. A member of the center recommended that I talk to him because of his involvement with the youth and adolescents in the area. He, his wife, and I all enjoyed soccer and with that he started a local soccer tournament in the neighborhood of which we live. A few weeks back on the first day of the tournament, there was gunfire in the area, and a woman was killed. Last sunday after the tournmanet had ended he was kidnapped from his home. Those that kidnapped handled negotations for his release with the family, they requested 150,000 pesos for his ransom. The family paid his ransom and he has since fled from Juarez becuase he and his wife are in so much danger. This is so sad because he and his wife are some of the most amazing people I have met, and they were friends of mine. Finding out that he had been sequestered affected not only his family, the church, but myself and the community that he works in. The kids we work with are heartbroken, and confused because it makes no sense, serves no purpose, and there is nothing they can do about it, they just lost friends of their community. The gentleman and his wife rightfully and wisely are choosing not to return to Juarez, not even to gather their belongings from their house. A very large amount of people have been taken, secuestered, or murdered, it is the reality that people around here deal with every day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

MPT accompanies representatives of four colonias

On Friday November 5th MPT accompanied representatives from four different colonias to the "Presidencia Municipal". Representatives from four colonias came together through the popular committees in order to obtain improvements for their colonias to be safer. At 1030 we met the group outside of the Presidencia where they strategized and the signed the papers dictating their requests and needs. The group is requesting the government pave their streets, clean the parks and fields, provide assistance for manual labor(i.e giving trucks for the colonia to be able to haul trash away), and many other requests the people believe to be necesssary. The group walked inside with Angie towards the front and Nina further back. 10 women, 1 gentleman, and 1 child served the secretary with the papers and asked that they be given to Teto. The sectetary gave the representatives a slip of paper with the number they should call to follow up about the issues and their requests. Overall this experience was very relaxed, and empowering for the people that we accompanied.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

MPT accompanies Mass at the border

The Mass at the border has become a tradition, hundreds of people come together to pray on November 2nd (all souls day) for those who have lost their lives trying to cross the border. It is a most unique set-up because we may be celebrating together yet we are separated by a 10 foot high fence. There are those who come from the diocese of Las Cruces, and from El Paso on the USA side and then all the people from Juarez on the Mexican side.

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez started his homily speaking of the beauty of being together in the desert, and feeling the warmth of the rays of the sun. He said that in looking around we could see the fence that separated us but we could also see and feel the faith of the people that united us. We could also see the names on white crosses symbolizing those who have lost their lives.

Children participated, holding white balloons. They all released them together at the end of mass.

This year we also included all the victims that have lost their lives because of violence. We sang bi-lingual hymns and prayed as one. There was a prayerful festive atmosphere in spite of the border patrol being present. We are all one longing for peace.