BY ISN STAFF | March 20, 2023
The Ignatian family demands justice for two Mexican Jesuits who were murdered alongside a tour guide last June in Cerocahui, Mexico. Eight months have passed since their deaths, but the perpetrator, a notorious local cartel leader whose identity is known by local authorities, has still not been apprehended. In a statement of solidarity with the Jesuit Community of Cerocahui, Jesuit leaders from North and South America expressed concern over the ongoing inaction of Mexican authorities.
“We mourn the tragic loss of our Jesuit brothers, Fr. Javier Campos Morales and Fr. Joaquín César Mora Salazar,” said president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. “Their deaths are a significant blow to the global Society of Jesus and to the parish communities in Cerocahui, which could suffer further violence if Mexican authorities fail to intervene. The time for action is past due.”
On June 20, 2022, Fr. Javier Campos Morales, S.J., and Fr. Joaquín César Mora Salazar, S.J., were murdered in their parish church, along with Pedro Palma, a tour guide. An armed group brought Mr. Palma into the church of San Francisco to be executed next to the altar, where Fathers Javier and Joaquín defended him. All three were killed.
The authorities know the identity of the perpetrator, who is also responsible for the murder of an American teacher in 2018 and of a human rights activist in 2019. There has been an active warrant for his arrest since 2018. Disturbingly, a few months after the murders, a video was posted online in which the perpetrator threatens the local Jesuits and witnesses.
Despite this knowledge, Mexican authorities have failed to take adequate action.
“We call on the Mexican authorities to arrest the perpetrator without further delay and ensure accountability for these crimes,” the Jesuit statement asserts. “The prevailing culture of impunity amplifies the cycle of violence in the Sierra Tarahumara, in Chihuahua and throughout Mexico. This violence can only end if impunity is addressed and justice is served.”
Recently, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested that the Mexican state adopt measures to guarantee the safety of the nuns and priests who continue to serve these communities. In their statement, Jesuits expressed gratitude for IACHR’s support, and they remain hopeful that the measures will improve the security of these territories.
“Fathers Javier and Joaquín dedicated their lives to serving Indigenous communities and defending human rights in an area beset by organized crime and violence,” the statement continues. “Their legacy of love in service extended to their final moments: sacrificing their own lives in the pursuit of protecting another.”