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Mexican bishops issue call for peace after murder of two priests in less than a week

(Reuters/Tomas Bravo)A migrant from Guatemala prays at the chapel of the San Juan Diego migrant shelter in Tultitlan, in the state of Mexico January 20, 2012.

The Mexican bishops' conference has issued a call for an end to the violence in the country after two priests were killed near their respective parishes in less than a week.

Catholic Herald reported that Fr. Juan Miguel Contreras Garcia was shot to death on April 20 just outside of his church in Guadalajara, Jalisco State. The shooting was reportedly carried out by two gunmen just after he had celebrated Mass. The assailants were seen fleeing in a compact vehicle. A motive is yet to be established for the attack.

On April 18, Fr. Rubén Alcántara Díaz was stabbed to death inside the church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen just before he was about to preside over the 7:00 p.m. mass.

Alcántara, who also serves as the diocesan judicial vicar, was reportedly confronted by the assailant prior to the attack.

Following the incident, Bishop Alfonso Miranda, secretary general of the Mexican Bishops Conference, reportedly took to Twitter to express his condolences for the slain priest as well as "all the victims of the enormous amount of violence in Mexico. God help us."

In a statement, the bishops' conference called on Mexicans to "construct a culture of peace and reconciliation."

"These regrettable occurrences call all of us to a much deeper and more sincere conversion. It's time to look honestly at our culture and society in order to ask ourselves how we lost respect for life and the sacred," the bishops stated, as reported by Intermountain Catholic.

"We ask those that do not appreciate and take away life for any reason to look up to the kind face of God, to not only lay down their weapons, but also hatred, rancor, vengeance and all destructive feelings," they continued.

At least 23 priests have been murdered in Mexico in the last six years, according to Catholic Herald. The country has been plagued with drug-related violence as well as some gruesome murders in well-known tourist destinations in recent weeks.

Open Doors has listed drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia as one of the top persecutors of Christians in the world. Christians evangelists are particularly targeted with violence because of the threat they pose to the way of life of the cartel leaders, according to the Christian charity.

Meanwhile, the organization has ranked Mexico as the 39th most dangerous place for Christians. The group noted that pastors and priests are under attack from criminal groups, while converts to Christianity are attacked by indigenous leaders. Christians who publicly express their beliefs are also experiencing intolerance from secularists, according to Open Doors.

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