Ciudad Juarez – Young people dressed as angels are going through Ciudad Juarez, a border city in northern Mexico, and asking gunmen and corrupt police officers to repent and turn to God.
About 25 young people dressed in white tunics with wings and carrying signs that say "Gunman Repent" and "Corrupt Policeman, Turn to God" are going around Juarez, where more than 9,800 people, the majority of them young, have been murdered in the past three years.
The group decided it needed to take its message to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital, so residents could "find peace" and get criminals to "turn to God" during one of the most difficult periods in the border city's history, project coordinator Carlos Mayorga told Efe.
"We have put together a group of 25 young people who serve as living statues dressed as angels at different intersections in the city, at police stations and at murder scenes to raise awareness and deliver a message of peace," Mayorga said.
"It's a way of getting teenagers and young people away from crime and helping them find peace, while raising awareness," Mayorga said.
One group of "Messenger Angels," as the Juarez residents are known, is made up of teenagers who were criminals and have decided to abandon the life of crime and join the Seres Divinos (Divine Beings) Christian church.
The young people go to murder scenes to try to change the border city's image, a group member said.
"We are doing this because we want Ciudad Juarez to change and to change the way we are viewed in the world," the young woman said on condition of anonymity.
Residents of Ciudad Juarez, located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, are praising the young people's efforts.
"Their work is giving us hope that there are still good people left who take risks to counteract the negative actions of the criminals and authorities," Juarez resident Estefania Lopez said.
The authorities have confronted the young people directly since they started taking their message into Ciudad Juarez's streets, on one occasion arresting and beating a member of the group outside a municipal police station.
The work being done by the volunteers is dangerous, but "it is really necessary at a time when the majority of the killings are of young people," Mayorga said.
"We are going to keep doing it until we are dealing with a different set of problems. Now, obviously, what affects us are corruption and the murders, but if something else affects us at some other time, we'll be here," Mayorga said.
Nearly 1,900 people have been murdered by gunmen working for drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez this year.