“Gold Fever” Premieres in Guatemala
“Ministry with those who are geographically far from our location does not always mean crossing the seas but may take the form of seeking to transform predatory foreign structures or global systems that connect us all.”
Professor Eleazar Fernandez, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, in Burning Center, Porous Borders—The Church in a Globalized World
I am the Minnesota Conference representative to the Wider Church Ministries Board and, through WCM, to the Common Global Ministries Board. Global Ministries is a joint venture of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ that manages 270 global partnerships. Global Ministries seeks an ecumenical global sharing of resources and prophetic vision of a just and peaceful world order, joining with God’s concern for the poor and oppressed.
One of our global partners is the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala. On April 18, 2013, I was in Guatemala City to be in solidarity with the Council and the Guatemalan villagers it supports at the international premiere of Gold Fever (Fiebre del Oro). Gold Fever, a documentary about the effect of gold mining on a remote Guatemalan village, was funded, in significant part, with grants from my own congregation (Mayflower UCC, Minneapolis) and Global Ministries.
On the evening of April 18, Jeff Frush, Diane Haines (both from Mayflower), and I found ourselves seated in the second row of the Guatemala National Theater. Next to us were Rev. Vitalino Similox, the General Secretary of the Ecumenical Council, Nora Coloma and Mayra Rodríguez, also from the Council Staff, and Gloria Vicente Canú, a WCM missionary who is working with the Council. Over 2000 people sat with us. Because of its emphasis on mining resistance, the film attracted attention from the national media in Guatemala, and many came to the screening from around the country.
Prior to the film screening, there were boos and hisses from the crowd at the mention by the Minister of Culture of the name of Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina. During a clip in the film showing former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt (convicted of genocide on May 10) the crowd shouted, “Genocider!” At the end of the film, the applause started at the credits and continued through the end of the credits with a standing ovation. Another standing ovation greeted the introduction of members of the community featured in the film.
Following the film, Rev. Similox gave me a big hug; he is aware of 200 communities who are affected by mining and dams and wants to reach them with community screenings to assist and support them in their resistance. He is currently at work on a study guide, based on Liberation Theology, which will be available for the screenings. The following morning, Rev. Similox and others from the Council headed to a community affected by mining to stand in solidarity with those in resistance. This is very dangerous work. Five people were murdered in March of 2013 because of their work fighting against the mines.
Global Ministries manages the way the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) relate to the world. The key component in these relationships is our global partnerships like the one with the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala. We work together with our partners to further the Reign of God. In Guatemala, as in the rest of the world, our partners are sacrificing greatly (even their lives) as they confront injustice. We in the United States seek the same end, but we have not always held up our end of the bargain. Part of our job is to show up in the countries of our partners once in a while, help provide funding to support shared objectives, and tell their story in the U.S. However, if we doubled the funds going to our partners (which we should absolutely do!), we would still not be holding up our end of the bargain.
While our partners appreciate our presence and funds, what they consistently ask of us is something they cannot do. They ask us to seek to change the system that creates injustice in the first place, especially as it relates to U.S. foreign policy and multinational corporations based in North America who exploit people and resources. My pastor, Rev. Sarah Campbell, put it this way in her sermon on April 28, 2013:
“Mayflower has gone to Guatemala several times, little groups of pilgrims traveling in vans for days across the country with Rights Action. Every time, after listening to the stories, we pose the same question: ‘What can we do?’ And every time we hear the same answer. Not ‘we need money’ or ‘come build a church’. But: ‘tell our story in North America.” Tell the truth about Guatemala and its relationship to the US.”
We are uniquely positioned to do this part of the work we share with our global partners. As we dedicate ourselves to strengthening this component of our work, we will approach holding up our end of the bargain. I believe that funding Gold Fever and helping to get it distributed in Guatemala and the United States is a step toward holding up our end of the bargain with our global partner in Guatemala.
The United Church of Christ’s support of Global Ministries is funded primarily through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering and through Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM). Funds specifically directed to the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala can be donated here. We expect our partnership with the Ecumenical Council to continue for many years into the future. Those of us who went to Guatemala in April are privileged and honored to have been able to get a glimpse of the work that is possible because individuals, congregations, and organizations all over the world work together to bring the Reign of God to the ends of the earth. Thanks to all who make this work possible through your prayers and your contributions.