It has been hard for me to believe in any Catholic priest for a long time now. I know some people get outraged when I say this, and I also know that it's unfair to judge all priests for their peers' crimes, but the fact that pedophile crimes went unpunished and were covered up by the Vatican made it almost impossible for me to believe in the Church's institution.
However, I still believe in God and I still believe there is goodness among Catholics, and such is the case of Reverend Alejandro Solalinde, who seven years ago chose to dedicate himself to helping Central and South American migrants traveling to the United States through his Hermanos en el Camino shelter in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, a sweltering railroad town where migrants wait to scramble atop cargo trains that will take them on the next leg of their wearying trip to the United States. Father Solalinde's demands that the authorities pursue the criminals preying on immigrants as well as his accusations that the police and politicians are protecting and even aiding the gangs has turned him into a target: He received six death threats in two months. But he says that this won't make him stop.
Father Soliande recently met with federal officials in Mexico City, who promised additional security measures for the shelter, and provided him with two new bodyguards, to add to the four state escorts who have protected him since he filed a complaint against members of the Zetas drug gang in late 2010. In fact, when he started building the shelter, it was still a crime to help an illegal migrant in Mexico, but now, the Roman Catholic Church supports a network of 50 shelters across the country.
Experts believe that as many as 22,000 migrants are kidnapped a year, based on testimony compiled by the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico. Who could forget the terrible migrant massacre in 2010 when 72 bodies were found in a ranch in the northern border state of Tamaulipas, not far from where, the following April, authorities found 193 more bodies in mass graves? Many were believed to be migrants kidnapped from buses traveling toward the Mexico-U.S. border.
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Since I came to the U.S., I have met plenty women and men who came here illegally; they're all hard-working and have found a good life in this country. However you feel about the immigration debate, it's hard to deny that for some, the journey is almost inhumane. Immigrants face brutal crimes—extortion, rape, kidnapping and murder—and Mexican authorities have ignored these for a very long time. This is why Father Soliande's courage to stand up for this issue has given me hope in my Church's priests again. "There is enormous impunity in Mexico," he has bravely said. "If crimes against Mexicans are never punished, even less so for those against migrants."
Thank you for restoring my faith again, Father Soliande.
What do you think about Father Soliande's cause? Do you think more people should get involved?
Sofia was born in Mexico and moved to New York in 1997. She has a 6-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy who are usually the main characters in her blog Slap cada día. After a long career in advertising, last year she decided to leave the corporate world to chase her own entrepreneurial dreams and work on her writing.