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Rafto Prize
Bishop Raul Vera honored for defense of human rights

Kathy Long, OP (Sinsinawa), Raul Vera, OP, and Aline Ussel, OP.

Distinguished preacher José Raúl Vera López, OP, bishop of Saltillo Diocese, Mexico, has been awarded the Rafto Prize 2010 from the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Norway, for his extensive and courageous defense of human rights in Mexico. Currently bishop of the diocese in the northern state of Cuahuila, bordering the United States, and former assistant bishop in Chiapas under Monsignor Samuel Ruiz (1995-99), Bishop Raúl is characterized for his stand with the indigenous and defense of human rights throughout Mexico.

“Bishop Raul Vera reminds me of the passion of Antonio Montesinos, OP, and the clear message for human rights. He is a fiery preacher and compassionate minister for many here in Mexico,” said Kathy Long, OP (Sinsinawa). Sister Kathy is executive director of a cross-cultural immersion center in Cuernavaca, where she has ministered since 2005. The center receives universities and church groups for immersion experiences in social justice. Sister Kathy was also recently named to a two-year term as coordinator of the Dominican family Peace and Justice Commission in Mexico.

“I have been with Fr. Raul on numerous occasions in Chiapas, in Mexico City and here in Cuernavaca where I live. He has given talks at the border and in various cities in the United States. His message crosses the border, and engages us to speak truth and defend the rights of those most vulnerable,” said Sister Kathy. “As we recognize the 500 years of Dominican preachers in the Americas, I see our brother Bishop Raul as a sign of the presence of Christ in our struggle. He gives us hope and direction.”

Raul Vera, OP, is a powerful critic of the drug cartels and the Mexican government’s inability to disarm the cartels of their control and violence. He says he was radicalized by the indigenous in Chiapas when he was sent there as an assistant to Samuel Ruiz. He helped with the process of peace and reconciliation between the indigenous and the Mexican government. Raul has also been an advocate for the 43 indigenous who were massacred by the military in Acteal, Chiapas in 1997.

In 2002 as Bishop of Saltillo, Fr. Raul supported the organization Belén, the migrants shelter, which gives shelter to migrants from all over Central America in their journey north. He has spoken out with the people after the mine disaster in Pasta de Conchos, in the State of Cuahuila where 63 miners were killed. The Mexican government did not attempt a rescue.

Although his life has been threatened, and his office ransacked, Fr. Raul continues his faith-filled presence and preaching with those who struggle to defend human rights.

See more photos and information on the Rafto Foundation web site.

The Rafto Foundation for Human Rights is a non-governmental, non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to the global promotion of human rights.