Mexico: drug violence turns churches into fortresses
The violence in northern Mexico has forced residents to take extraordinary steps to ensure their safety following several years of a deadly conflict between Mexican government security forces and various drug cartels. For example, to the west of Monterrey in the state of Nuevo Leon, a Catholic priest has enclosed the parish church with fortress-like reinforced concrete walls and armor plating over windows to protect his parishioners. Rev. Scott Michael McDermott Eichhorst built 20-foot walls around the parish chuch of St. Teresa of Avila in Colonia Mirasol and also pays for nine armed guards to patrol the church perimeter 24 hours per day.
Violent clashes and the loss of innocent life prompted the Catholic priest to take action. According to a report by the FIDES news service, Rev. Eichhorst said "One of these clashes lasted about 40 minutes ... there was chaos ,” adding “People did not know what was happening. Precisely for this reason, to immediately warn the faithful of what happens outside, we placed two traffic lights in the church: red indicates clashes, deaths or mobilization of armed police; yellow: suspicious vehicles or armed people outside the church; green means go ahead and that the road is safe."
The parish is quite active. On Sundays, 15 Masses are celebrated for approximately 8,000 people. Meanwhile, violence in the country does not stop. According to the statistics provided by the Attorney General of Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas, in September 2012 alone, 87 people were killed in the state. In Mexico as a whole, a total of 1,107 deaths were recorded in 2012. To this official number, many unreported cases must be added.
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