Standing with the Oppressed
The times during which Jesus was born resemble those of today; they were violent. Herod the Great felt threatened that a king would defy his power, although at that time the king was only a baby. Herod tried to eliminate him and, when he could not find him, unleashed his murderous rage and killed all children under 2 years of age. Joseph and Mary escaped after hearing a voice from God and fled to Egypt to protect their newborn child.
I came to Chiapas to celebrate Christmas with the martyrs of Acteal, Mexico on the twenty-second anniversary of the massacre they suffered on December 22, 1997. On that day in 1997, a group of civilians, armed and established by the Mexican army, arrived in the city of Acteal and ended the lives of 45 people. Those who lost their lives had originally moved to Acteal from other communities in Chiapas because their lives had been threatened. During December 2019, I lived among the people of Acteal, many of whom I had worked with years before in Chiapas.
Juan Vázquez, the current president of the community, lost 9 members of his family – his mother, some of his brothers and sisters, and his father – on the day of the massacre. He said, “We will not let our memories be forgotten. In order for the new to be born, the old must be amended. As long as the government praises and rewards murderous beasts and religion invites resignation, justice will be crushed.”
When the commemoration was over, I interviewed Juan, who updated me about the displaced people arriving from the nearby community of Río Jordán. A few months ago, he alerted me that people were again being forced to move from their communities due to life-threatening violence. Juan said, “Help us to share what is happening, so that those responsible for the attacks are accountable for the truth.” Juan told me that today feels very similar to those days that took place in 1997. In the months of August and September 2019, 35 people joined the Acteal community after they were forced to move out of their community.
They attacked us and destroyed our houses…
They wanted to put us in jail,
and with fear we men went out,
we left our wives and our children
We thought they would respect them,
but they did not;
after intense provocations, fearing for their lives,
our wives left our community on September 16,
and arrived at the headquarters of Las Abejas in Acteal.
We are 35, going hungry and cold,
Because they harass and threaten death.
Juan said, “Although we have our perspective, they have the right to see with their perspective. But let us sit down, talk and come to an agreement;
We ask that they do not try to crush us for bringing in us the living conscience of our martyrs;
that they respect
our steps in which we walk,
our eyes with which we look,
our words that we pronounce;
because we feel and we are
from our 45 massacred.”
Here I raise my voice, begging God to open the hearts of those who hear me, so that we may be the blessed, so that we may give food and water to eat and drink to the hungry and thirsty, so that we may welcome the outsider and the displaced, that we cover, cure, visit them, so that we will watch over them, being a voice that calls for justice. The judgment of the nations – Matthew 25: 31-46
That in this season, that we remember the birth of Jesus, our Savior and Lord, let us hear the voice that his parents heard, and act to save the lives and rights of those displaced by violence in Chenalho and of all the peoples of the world.
Ricardo Mayol serves with the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala (CECG). His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.