Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 25, 2006
Mass celebrates peace-loving farmers
Villagers remember the slaughter of their friends by the army
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
Not far from Chicam n, a half-hour drive away, sits the community of Chipaj. I drove into the Chipaj churchyard and parked behind the bishop's van to attend Mass.
This was not your usual Mass. In fact we left the church ground and walked in dense bush for 10 minutes to a clearing in the bush.
Here, in the early 1980s, incredible violence and killings took place and many good, innocent people lost their lives there.
It was the time of a strange civil war launched by the murderer president and army General Garcia who began a war by the army against his own people.
The army was supposed to be fighting "guerillas" and so they decided the campesinos were the enemies of the nation and that these so-called rebels had to be destroyed by all means possible to keep Garcia in power.
A good word for campesinos might be farmers.
The Mass, led by Bishop Mario Alberto Molina, celebrated the martyrs, people who were sequestered by the armed forces of Guatemala with the cooperation of spies, people from the community who knew people involved in the peace process and reconciliation.
The armed forces acted on the information and in that secluded area people were tortured and killed. They murdered by shooting people near a banranco, a deep precipice, and then throwing the bodies over the cliff to land several hundred feet below,
Some were spared the shooting and instead they were thrown head first, alive into the precipice to die a sudden death when they hit the ground or trees below.
It was commonplace for people to report against people they didn't like and so innocent people were killed by the armed forces.
Bishop Mario Alberto Molina, our new bishop and a fine man, came to join the people who still mourn their loved they lost in that time of terror.
The bishop, in his homily, shared the following thoughts.
"This Eucharist of the year 2006 is in honour of the martyrs of Chipaj. Year after year at Chipaj, we celebrate the memory of the martyrs of the Chicam n parish in this area that has been the witness of so many killings and we want to remember many people who gave up their lives in order to be faithful to the word of God and to the commitment to their brothers and sisters in the fight for justice and for the well-being of their communities.
"Among the ones who followed faithfully the Lord Jesus was Mariano Quixtan who prepared the children for their First Communion. There was also Francisco Tum Lopez, catechist, minister of Communion and the secretary of the Catholic Action, Nicolas Tum Castro and others very involved with their communities in the proclamation of the reign of God.
"These people accepted to die for what gave meaning to their lives. They did what they knew to be the invitation of Jesus to follow him, serving their people.
"And we are here today especially to remember and to renew our commitment as Christians, in the faith and hope that a better world is possible. These people welcomed the invitation of Jesus, even if this meant to give up their own lives."
After a time of silence and prayer, we walked to the edge of the precipice where so many innocent people were murdered by being forcefully thrown below into the chasm.
Then we silently walked away towards our vehicles, deeply moved by the experience, hoping such violence and aggression against human lives is a thing of the past.
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