|Two Final Meetings|
The Site of Girardi's murder......
Fernando, Eddie's off-sider takes us over to the church where Mgr Girardi worked and his parish house next door where he was killed. As we are looking at the church and the garage door where the murder occurred, two men, one with a mobile phone, looked our way, walked past close to us/and then got into a car and drove off.
It put the wind up us a bit. The trial is still happening and the military are doing their best to manipulate the whole process. When we re-grouped, Sean pointed out that if these guys had been keeping an eye on us, then Fernando would have been the one to be targeted - though he is not as well known as Eddie, so that was in his favour too. Also, the fact that their car was parked right in front of the parish house, and we could have taken their rego number, possibly meant that they had no interest in us at all. On the other hand, this is he kind of intimidation that still goes on here all the time. It did get us going a bit and we slipped our cameras away as quickly as we could.
Then on the way to the market, we passed the military headquarters, and getting out of a big truck were a squad of young soldiers in football gear, each with his rifle slung over his shoulder. They were coming home from soccer training and were baby-faced, but well armed. They belonged to the Presidential Guard. It was to this unit that the two officers charged with Girardi's murder belong. Their headquarters is two blocks from Girardi's place and is well visible from the church.
It provided some pleasant relief to go to the markets and get stuck into a bit of bartering and think about family and friends and home. Two more brief meetings tonight and then it's homeward bound.Two final meetings........
Tonight we met with Lysette and and Flor from the Romero network. The work of their group involves promoting reconciliation, justice and spreading information to keep the truth before people. They use all sorts of tactics, including graffiti, which they have to be very careful about. They say without much access to the media, this is a good way for them to keep putting their message out. At the moment they are keeping up the pressure to secure a good outcome in the Girardi case as nothing much is being done at the moment. They continue to work on developing the spirituality they need to sustain their active work.
While they were talking a little, loud, older ball of energy bounced into the room and asked if we'd like something to drink.
Enter Raquel Saravia of the Holy family Sisters - Congregational Leader, on the team of SICSAL, former head of the conference of Women Religious for Latin America. Born into the upper middle class here, she went through a conversion when she came into direct contact with the poor who she says were her best teachers.
She turned out to be one of the most earthed, good humoured and wise people we have met on the whole journey. Sean has kept the best till last! We share a short session with her as she responds to our questions with gusto.On the Bishops - We have some outstanding bishops like the one you met in Santa Cruz, but we also have bishops who are very quiet and conservative and as a result the conference doesn't speak out enough. For instance, the bishops say they are giving the new government some time to settle in before they speak too much, but our sense is now is the time to start speaking But they hesitate. When we as religious speak out, they can get angry, but that doesn't stop us.
Back in the 80's they would say nothing, till we challenged them again and again, and then there was an agreement that we would work together so the church's efforts would be seen to be united. Still it is difficult. The present Archbishop is nearly ready to retire and since the Girardi murder, has kept a low profile. The other bishops too were slow to speak out on the case - but eventually some things were said.
On the Evangelical sects - These groups I call Religious NGO's! They get plenty of money from the US mainly, spend it on their projects, peddle a religion that is all about me and God and are not at all interested in the social implications of the gospel - they have no commitment to the welfare of the people and are only interested in promoting their narrow version of religion. Their own survival is what they are about.
Re ASC - the civil action program that Eddie runs - During the preparation of the Commission's report on historical memory they performed an important and valuable task. Now though they are in decline and are desperately looking for ways to keep going. There are other networks that could be formed, and it would be good if they stopped worrying about their own future, folded up and put their energy behind supporting the sort of network and initiative that is more appropriate for now. (Eddie's group is the one who has given us a few goodies they hope we can sell for them at home).On Religious Life - I think that Religious Life needs refounding - I have been giving a workshop on this all day today. Like the NGO's and the Sects, Religious communities in decline worry more about their own survival and less about their mission. The three pillars for refounding a community are:
_ a deep experience of God
_ a commitment to walk with the poor
_ a commitment to fraternal living,
Raquel's energy, obvious courage and wonderful humour evidenced a life lived to the full - many years with refugees in Mexico and in the troubled Chiapas Province - she has seen and lived the struggle and her hope, love for life and sense of mischief are still strong. She is a wonderful embodiment of the in-your-face how-can-you-not-see energy that the liberation theology at its best expresses.
A pleasant hour or two with pizza, beers and a scotch back at our little hotel, along with Francois - a volunteer here, adopted and brought up in Belgium, but himself originally a Guatemalan and Paula, a gorgeous nursing student, a Mayan from the Quiche community, asking us all about our mission here and our learnings from our experience - and then with gentle, articulate grace, Paula told us of her love for her country and culture and her hopes for her people.
We enjoyed the ending of our day and so to sleep for the final time here.
We have been given valuable glimpses of the story and the struggle of this nation in these last few days. There is much to be done and wounds that will take generations to heal. There is much good will and much energy going into the healing process. There is also some fragmentation of effort and as several people reflected with us, the energy tends to wane from time to time, but with people like Raquel, Lysette and Paula, dreaming and giving flesh to their dreams, there is much to hope in as well. As always there is the constant presence of guns and symbols of military power......there is much to be done.WEDNESDAY APRIL 5 - FRIDAY APRIL 7 - TRAVEL
We fly to LA where most of us part company. Jenny is flying on to New York and leaves at the same time as me, and from the next gate. So with the help of some welcome beers we do an excellent few hours' reflection on the whole experience. Our wounds as well as our gifts become unmasked in these cultures of in-your-face tragedy and theology - there is nowhere to hide. Everything from ideological issues to bowel movements were shared!
I farewell Jenny and set my face for home, with so many images that have enriched me, and so many questions that remain. For instance, how can we in our self-absorbed, affluent first world possibly hear the gospel as it is meant to be heard? You really do need to be poor to hear it - at least to have the free heart of the poor person, to know something of the hunger of the poor person, and to have nothing to lose, in order to hear the gospel at depth.
This has always been our teaching, but not always our living, for as church, as communities, as individuals, we collude in the structures that make our "first world" tick, and among these are structures that fly straight in the face of the gospel. The parable of the Rich Fool is our story over and over. We gather into barns and keep for ourselves, and if we lend a little, it is always at exorbitant rates, and we think it is our right to demand repayment for what we don't really need.
Through righteousness, and perhaps more often through our fear, we put up barriers that exclude where the gospel opens the doors of welcome, without discrimination, judgement or favor. It is often enough the poor who open their doors for they have nothing to lose, and like the wizened woman I met on the march for Romero's anniversary, instinctively share what little they have.
I talk of letting go in my own life, but still hang on to so much. And yet I have again tasted the freedom that comes from letting go...........to cast everything at the foot of the Cross and say simply "here it is - I am yours...."
To rise from the dead as Romero's spirit has done in his people, I too need to let go, to die again to all that does not make for life. The confronting witness of Pat Fox, the hospitality of the Santa Marta community, the courage of Roberto Cabrera, all call to me as if from the pages of the gospel. Now I listen again and hear - the Good News is fresh again!
Like the Magi in Eliot's poem, I return to my own kingdom, but having seen birth and death - in all its starkness and beauty, I walk with fresh steps and clear eyes once more.