Life and death in Ciudad Juarez

Dealing with a double murder in Ciudad Juarez
Dealing with a double murder in Ciudad Juarez

In Greek mythology King Sisyphus was condemned to an eternity of rolling a huge boulder uphill, only for it to roll back down again. This never ending task is not dissimilar from the efforts of the Mexican government to clamp down on the local drug cartels and bring an end to the tragic loss of life caused by Mexico’s drug wars. It is reported that over 50,000 people have lost their lives so far since the violence began. Thankfully the news last Wednesday was positive, with the Mexican Navy announcing the capture of Ivan Velazquez, a notorious member of the Zetas drug cartel. Earlier that day another 18 members of the same cartel had also been rounded up.

The situation in northern Mexico was graphically illustrated in a recent BBC documentary, which followed Manchester nurse Maria Connolly as she spent two weeks working in Ciudad Juarez at the Juarez General Hospital. This city of over one million people lies next to the border with the USA, near the border crossing to El Paso, Texas. Mexican drug cartels are involved in a violent struggle for supremacy as they attempt to smuggle cocaine and cannabis over the border – a trade worth billions of dollars. According to the BBC, 10,000 have been murdered on the streets since 2008, making the city more dangerous than Baghdad. Executions, torture and kidnapping are commonplace. Hundreds of women have also gone missing in the city. The hospital, where Maria was working, has armed guards to stop gunmen from murdering patients. Doctors and nurses themselves are seen as wealthy, and are therefore a prime target for kidnappers. Some have been held for ransom and even murdered. Hundreds of medical staff have fled the city leaving more than a third of hospitals and clinics abandoned.

Therefore one of the great surprises of the documentary was the calm, friendly and sometimes almost joyful attitude of the very committed staff that remain. Maria comments: “They seem to be so strong and positive and happy. Then you find out what really goes on in their lives.” One nurse, Trinny, has sent her family across the border to live in Texas, while most of the week she lives a lonely and dangerous existence in Ciudad Juarez; all so that she can continue to care for those who need her help. “I have thought of leaving, but this is my job,” says Trinny. I’ve been a nurse for twenty-one years, and to leave my job because of what is happening here, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.” Those who give of themselves in this way deserve recognition; giving up their own safety and comfort for those they don’t even know. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) And Jesus did that very thing for you and me; His life for ours so that we could have the opportunity of eternal life. As Rabbi Sha’ul once wrote, “God showed how much he loved us by having Messiah die for us, even though we were sinful.” (Romans 5:8)

If you are someone who prays, and most of us do at one time or another, please remember the people of Ciudad Juarez.

January 2013: U.S. family go missing passing through Ciudad Juarez.


Life’s ups and downs

During the last eleven days of Paralympic competition we have marvelled at the triumphs and achievements of disabled athletes. Yesterday, before the closing ceremony, I met with a visually impaired friend who has a great sense of humour, and who is into sport in a big way, football in fact … as a spectator. So much so he has even been featured on television. Then last summer I had the pleasure of spending two weeks with another visually impaired friend, who again was always joking, and indeed in this short (1 min. 26 sec.) video it is the visually impaired person (or stunt man), who is the star. The joke is on the hapless members of the public, who have innocently agreed to help, but who are at loss to manage a situation that is rapidly getting out of control.

Both the blind man and the members of the public are getting carried along by events. The blind man is confident because he has total trust in the crane driver who is raising and lowering the platforms. The members of the public, on the other hand, can see things happening and are alarmed because they don’t realise that somebody else is in control.

Our lives do have their ups and downs, and we sometimes forget that we have a loving Creator, but we can remain calm when we commit each situation to Him, knowing that His eye is upon us and His invisible hand will guide our way. King Solomon once wrote: “Trust in God with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Seek his will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) No matter how good or bad the situation, God is watching over us to guide us and to help us through.