'Pray for those who persecute you'

Aguchita's murder did not go unnoticed, and many official statements were released following her death and burial. Today, as we continue to reflect on Aguchita's life and legacy, we share the first of four of these, as follows:

Statement from the Permanent Council
of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference


1. The Permanent Council of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, in the name of the Church, annunciator of the Kingdom of God, and defender of Life and Peace, once again expresses its deep pain and concern about the escalation of violence and death in our beloved homeland.

2. We mourn the violent deaths of thousands of Peruvians during the last decade and, in recent days (between September 27 and 29), the selective murder of seven people, including a religious sister, in La Florida, Chanchamayo, Junín. These deaths, at the hands of subversive groups, have not received a diligent or effective response from law enforcement agencies.

3. This is the first time that an armed group has consciously and deliberately murdered a female religious: Sister María Agustina Rivas (70 years old) of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.

4. This violent situation, in its many forms, challenges us and deeply questions us to understand these senseless bloody events that have caused so many homes to be in mourning and have condemned so many families into exile.

5. We are convinced that God, our Father, is the Lord of Life. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep; that is why we make the words of Jesus our own: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Mt. 10:28). We also listen to the Lord who teaches us: "You have heard that it was said: 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,' but I say to you: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt. 5: 43-44).

6. We emphatically appeal to those who have placed their trust in violence, and we beg them, in the name of God, to lay down their arms and stop killing their fellow men and women. Return to the path of reason and reconciliation; this will bring about the peace and justice yearned for among all Peruvians! We reaffirm our commitment to serving everyone, especially the poorest and those suffering from this violence and death. We hope that there will be a change of hearts and minds and that unjust structures will be overcome. We can only achieve this by being united in our determination to achieve peace and justice: blessings that we hope to obtain from the Lord of Miracles and the Blessed Virgin Mary through the prayer and sacrifice of believers and the efforts of people of goodwill.

Lima, October 1990

As you read the statement, what stands out for you? Notwithstanding your prayerful presence, are the streets, towns, and cities around you breeding grounds for violence and death? And what active role do you play to change the hearts and minds of those who do harm, and encourage them to return to the path of reason and reconciliation?