Sisters experience upheaval in Chile

Left, Sisters Noemi Flores, Rita Manriquez, Maria Luisa Miller and Edna Hess with their dog Toby in front of their house in Cerro Navia, Chile, in April 2019; Sister Ceil Taphorn photo. Sisters Maria Luisa and Edna participating in the Family of the Blood of Christ in Chile, March 2019; contributed photo.

Dear Readers of Sharing & Caring,

Peace and social justice — we have heard these deep desires of Chile many times these past weeks since the October 18 uprise in Chile. “THE CRY OF THE BLOOD TODAY.”

Life in Chile, and her people, have changed in many ways.

The afternoon of October 18, I was on my way to help direct a retreat for the laity. I got to the last subway system to take a taxi to the retreat house and saw the Plaza of Maipú filled with police, people shouting and tear gas bombs. Very quickly I got out of this disturbance and got to the taxi and to the retreat house. There, about 65 people were gathered, each with their story of how they strived against odds to get to the retreat for the weekend. Upon finalizing a beautiful retreat on Creation and our part in God’s Work of Art in us, we returned to Santiago, where we saw some of the destruction that had taken place over the weekend.

Much destruction has taken place in these past weeks: a great amount of the subway stations were burnt and destroyed, as well as banks, hotels, supermarkets, small businesses, etc. Today 80 of the 116 subway stations are partially functioning. Others will not be operable until next April because of the damage. Many people have been experiencing three to four hours to get to their work without proper transportation. Many people have lost their jobs because of the destruction. Thousands of people have been hurt physically in the streets. There have been 15 deaths. Over 200 have suffered from rubber bullets that hit their eyes. A few days ago, the government forbade the police from using this method in disturbances. Over 2,000 police officers have been hurt from rocks, Molotov bombs and other injuries. Many people are convinced that many of the disturbances and ransacking of supermarkets and other places are motivated by drug dealers, or organized by other organizations from outside the country. The deliquents and some young people have been very involved in the organized burnings of stores, hotels and other places. We say “organized” because many fires are started in the same manner at the same hour in different parts of the city or cities.

Many countries of Latin America are suffering similar situations, among them Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia and some in Argentina.

The majority of people with whom one talks do not approve of the violence and destruction. Dialogue, peaceful marches and cooperation of the government to help their people get back on their feet are the expressed desires of the people. Congress accepted lowering their salaries to help the situation.

The president of the country announced the writing of a new constituion for the country. This will require many elected people and perhaps some of Congress to dialogue and rewrite the constitution, if that is accepted in a plebiscito (primary election) for April. After the constituion is rewritten, it will again be presented to the people of Chile to vote into existence. A number of people have said they like the proposal for a new constitution that former President Michelle Bachelet’s government worked on years ago; it never received approval.

During these past weeks, the government has proposed many possiblilities of raising minimum salaries to the equivalent of about $625 a month. Other decisions involve the price of public transportation and promises to improve the health system. Another great problem is the retirement system and its benefits. This area needs a great renovation. Many of the poor and middle class receive around $138 a month.

Almost every other day, marches and protests continue. Some are peaceful; others are destructive when the delinquents enter.

When we prepared our CPPS directive statements in Assembly, we never anticipated how soon they would be “tested” in our country of Chile.

We Sisters and the People of God are most grateful to all of you, our Sisters and readers of Sharing & Caring, for your constant intercession to God for our country.

We are in the month of Mary, and many more people are in the Marian services and Eucharist, praying with great fervor. May peace return to Chile and those who have caused so much unrest and destruction be converted and work for true social justice and peace. May Mary Inmaculate, whose feast we celebrate next Sunday, intercede for Chile. All parishes are urged to have processions this day, and consecrate anew Chile to Our Blessed Mother. Unite with us from afar for this blessing.

God bless all of you for your love and prayers.

— Story by Sister Maria Luisa Miller

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