'Messenger Angels' protest crime in Mexico, wearing angels' wings (video)

Calling themselves 'Messenger Angels,' youth members of an evangelical church are protesting Mexico's drug violence by taking to the streets carrying signs and wearing angel costumes.

Children touch the wings of a man dressed as an angel as he holds a sign reading "Christmas with Jesus is happiness" in Ciudad Juarez on Dec. 13, 2011. Members of the Psalm 100 church regularly dress as angels, holding signs with religious messages for passers-by to read.

For foreigners in Mexico, at least those accustomed to gray skies and who wish for snow on Christmas, it can be hard to get into the holiday spirit sometimes. That’s compounded in a year like this, where, in my home at least, we opted for a Christmas tree sticker on the wall instead of a live one to avoid having our one-year-old climbing up the branches.

This is not to mention all of the wearying reports of drug violence that can give one a dim view of the nation. Fortunately, there is some good news this Christmas season that truly does warm the heart.

My colleague Deborah Bonnello created a documentary for AFP about a group of youths from an evangelical church in Ciudad Juarez who are quietly protesting murder and mayhem on the streets by dressing as angels and demanding drug traffickers to repent.

“Hired Assasin, repent. Christ loves you,” reads a sign carried by a young man, his face painted white and wearing giant cardboard wings with feathers glued on, as he stands at an intersection in Juarez. The border city has gained notoriety as one of the most dangerous in the world – even if violence is down this year – logging 10,000 murders since 2008.

The “Messenger Angels,” as they call themselves, are fighting back.

They stand on folding chairs to appear larger than life, on street corners, outside municipal buildings, at the scenes of crime, in a protest tinged with religious sentiment but that is ultimately saying: We do not accept the status quo.

Carlos Mayorga, the youth leader for the Psalm 100 Church to which the youths belong, told NPR he got the idea to stand as angels from the “human statues” that take spots in tourist locales for tips.

But they don’t just stand passively: Mr. Mayorga, NPR reports, is a reporter by day, so he is privy to homicides and other crimes as they play out throughout the day and evening. He and the church members pack up their wings and head right to the action.

Their movement is remarkable in a country that in many ways has felt cowed by violence, as we reported a few weeks ago.

And doing the work of an activist in Mexico is not without peril. Human rights activists often receive threats. One was shot earlier this month in Ciudad Juarez.
The “Messenger Angels” are receiving positive press, as they should. But it remains to be seen what kind of impact they will have. For starters, unlike other countries in Latin America, evangelicals in Mexico do not have the political sway or organizing potential as they do in Brazil or Guatemala, for example.

Even if they did, other protests, much bigger in size, have failed to turn into national movements – excepting that of Javier Sicilia, the poet who is leading peace marches and who was just profiled by Time magazine for part of its “Person of the Year 2011” edition called the “The Protester.” But even his movement, many argue, has not brought any change in strategy and the violence continues.

Apparently other “angel movements” have taken off in other cities, however. And the youth voice has been audibly absent from protests in general in Mexico in recent years, so this could inspire others to get involved. Or at the very least show the world the brave work being done in Mexico at a time when such a showcase is badly needed.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

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