How would you describe the mission of our partner in Guatemala?
A space for committed Christians to gather, reflect and act in support of peace, reconciliation and ecumenism in Guatemala in order to respond to the challenges that the current country and world brings on.
The Christian Ecumenical Council of Guatemala http://www.concejoecumenico.org/ emerged in 1986 in part as a process with core areas in support of peace and reconciliation during the political peace negotiations which lead to the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996 and subsequently participated in the verification of their fulfillment.
For years the council, through their respective church roles, has made a difference in Guatemala because it has constituted and served as bridges among the different actors of Guatemalan society, dialogue facilitators, honor witnesses, conflict mediators in various settings, and maintains political and social recognition at the service of peace and national reconciliation.
How do you fit into their mission:
My work with the Ecumenical Christian Council involves accompanying different ministries and in particular visiting high conflict zones where indigenous communities continue resisting mining processes in their lands and communities. Other types of accompaniment include visiting sacred spaces and/or participating in Mayan celebrations or ceremonies which represent physical and spiritual presence.
Participating in ecumenical spaces where, for example, Christian unity is celebrated through a church service between Catholics and Protestants inside the Metropolitan Cathedral is spiritual presence. Visiting and accompanying families when they have lost a loved one by the violence is emotional and spiritual presence. Another aspect of my work involves being an interpreter of languages between Spanish and English to non-Spanish speakers. But being an interpreter of languages also means being a witness and bridge for our UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and sharing the stories and testimonies of faith of brothers and sisters in Guatemala. Accompaniment in Guatemala correlates with Global Ministries’ mission of Critical Presence in the physical, emotional, spiritual and economic spheres.
What led you to engage in this calling?
Coming from a family who survived a civil war and a father who has believed in justice, peace, and human rights has inspired my understanding of suffering as it relates to being poor, voiceless, marginalized, persecuted, and unprivileged. It is this reality on earth and Jesus Christ’s life and teachings of compassion and love of one’s neighbor that has led me to God’s call to ministry.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
"So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another…Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up." - Ephesians 4:25-32
Perhaps the most difficult of actions is at times speaking truth even if distasteful and taken offensively at times it seems the most constructive way as long as it “is useful for building up”. But sometimes, even when we speak truth that “evil talk” comes out and is expressed by actions others take against you. The idea of speaking truth is that it should be mutually truthful and respectful. It goes beyond borders, nationalities and identities. This part of scripture has had special meaning in my ministry because I have learned that no matter where we are in the world, even when we are foreigners, people are people no matter what and despite our roles as missionaries who sometimes tend to get gendered, we must treat each other as “members of one another”. Thus, I have learned the importance of speaking truthfully and openly as a woman and a woman of color in places like Guatemala where women experience triple discrimination for being women, being poor, and for being indigenous. This is a challenge in Guatemala and in our own communities.
What are some of the challenges facing the people of Guatemala, yourself and the Council?
One of the challenges for the Council and myself is facing the increased social conflict in Guatemala and increased extrajudicial abuse by military and police towards community leaders and activists who are persecuted, kidnapped, assassinated. I ask our churches to pray and to get involved in justice seeking processes that defend life, dignity and peace.
What lesson have you learned working alongside the people of Guatemala that you would like to share with churches in the U.S.?
In one word, it is Efficiency. Efficiency when one sees how much can be accomplished with very little. Efficiency in how effective one small organization can be in their outreach work with churches and religious entities of different denominations. To be able to come together in prayer with Catholics and Protestants is not only a symbol of unity, but also a symbol of tolerance, respect and commitment to peace and reconciliation in Guatemala. As churches in the U.S. we need to learn from this example.
Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work?
Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings
I, Rigoberta Menchú by Rigoberta Menchú and Elizabeth Burgos
Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala by Stephen Schlesinger
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
“Can the Subaltern Speak?” by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Which movies have shaped your understanding of your work in Guatemala?
When the Mountains Tremble by Pamela Yates
Men with Guns by John Sayles
The Mission by Robert Bolt and Roland Joffé
A Dry White Season by Euzhan Palcy
Learn more through Gloria's blog Ecumenic Guatemala.Find out more about our mission work in:
Be in Solidarity with Guatemalans on the 1st Anniversary of Guilty Verdict Against General Rios Montt