R-Dueweke

Climate Smart Village — Cebu, Philippines

 

CLIMATE SMART VILLAGE – CEBU

Marivic Ygot Codiñera

Fr. Andres Rivera, OSA, Provincial

The Monte Maravilla Augustinian Project in Dumanjug, Cebu, is envisioned as a climate smart complex. Located on the 40-hectare property donated by Srta. Candida Mercader and family, the project features an integrated farming system, farming adventure camp with a learning site for organic farming, a nature park, farm products display center, and a village of the needy. The project’s vision promotes climate smart, resilient, and sustainable technologies in agriculture that is beneficial for farmers in the area.

 

On June 12, 2019, the Augustinian Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu held a ground-breaking ceremony of the Monte Maravilla Augustinian (OSA) Project in Brgy, Kang-actol, Dumanjud, Cebu. The ceremony was spearheaded by the Province together with various stakeholders and partner organizations such as CTU-Barili, Carmen Copper, SNAF, PADO, FairTrade, DSWD, DSWS, People’s Coop, BMSN OSA Cares, BMSN Medical Team, LGU of Dumanjud and the locals of the baranggay.

R-Dueweke

Essay on Communication — Keenan Overa

 

Communication, NGO’s, and the United Nations

By Keenan Overa (AI Youth Rep from Lehigh University)

Within any organization, communication is one of the fundamental pillars toward making sustained and visible progress. Communication is vital in making effective plans and scheduling future projects, yet at the same time communication is key toward resolving issues and challenges that inevitably arise throughout one’s professional work. This dynamic of interaction exists not only between individuals within an organization like an NGO, but all along the entire UN system: from NGO to NGO, NGO to society, and NGO to the UN. As an incredibly complex and interwoven web, it is little wonder that at times communication difficulties arise, and subsequent setbacks as well. For me personally, at times I’ve experienced challenges in organizing and staying in touch with projects. Importantly, its key to understand that this is a not a poor reflection of any individual or their capacity to function as a team member, but rather it serves as an example of how delicate yet impactful communication is at the heart of organizations like Augustinian International.

Perhaps the first step that needs to be taken is understanding what exactly is effective communication. Exchanges dialogue is a robust oversimplification of an otherwise exceedingly expansive process, but at its core it is true that communication is a transfer of understanding from one individual another. (Lunenburg 1, 2010) Fundamentally, as Lunenburg details that “unless a common understanding results from the exchange of information, there is no communication” (Lunenburg 1, 2010) That understanding comprises the goal; the target information that forms the motivation for dialogue. Equally as important is feedback, the response of the receiver of information and main indication of whether or not understanding has occurred. (Lunenburg 2, 2010). Information that is sent must be decoded in the format and method it was presented, and the resulting understanding manifests itself as feedback. (Lunenburg 2 ,2010) This understanding may seem very bookish, but in breaking down the communication process into its various parts can we more clearly understand how to be more effective in communicating.

Importantly, the barriers to effective communication must be understood. A failure or breakdown anywhere in the communication system described by Lunenburg, consisting of sender, message, receiver, and feedback, results in a failure of communication. (Lunenburg 2-3, 2010) Words carry diverse connotations, physical factors can impede hearing and comprehension, and a variety of psychosocial barriers described by Luneburg that connect a listener’s personal experiences and the role that might be play in understanding. For youth representatives just entering the UN system, it is vital to understand how complex but important a simple idea like communication is. For both a new youth representative and a seasoned veteran of the UN system, Lunenburg’s recommendations for effective communication should ease comprehension and make common understanding more readily available. These tips, complied in Lunenburg’s work, include “clarifying ideas before communicating, examining the true purpose of each communication, understand the environment where communication occurs, consult with others when necessary, be aware of the relationship between implied meanings/overtones and the basic content of the message, convey the sense of value or help to the receiver, follow up on communication, communicate for today and tomorrow, support their communication with actions, and seek to understand as much as being understood.” (Lunenburg 6-8, 2010)

I currently rely on these strategies now, as I am serving as an intern in Chisinau, Moldova at the American Language Center. One of the most prevalent challenges has presented itself in the form of language: Moldova is a multi-lingual society and an individual not fluent in Romanian or Russian would face great challenge here, and this is a story that I myself have seen glimpses of. Yet what these anecdotes from various individuals demonstrate is the opportunity to recognize the potential for effective communication. Here in Moldova, I have had the amazing chance to practice and improve my Russian in the workspace just by utilizing it daily. By being abroad, I can learn to more effectively manage my tasks and lines of contact with Augustinians International, thereby improving my own capacity to schedule and manage multiple tasks and moving parts at once.

Within all of our various networks, especially within Augustinians International and our relationships with the wider United Nations system, it’s key to stay in touch. As the world grows smaller with advances in technology and our organizations networks grow wider, we must make a conscious effort to be mindful of our capacity to work together through communication. It’s a challenge I myself have lots of room to improve on, but it’s also something that as an organization that we always remain mindful of its importance, as we work to improve the world to the best of our capacities.

Citations

Lunenburg, Fred C. (2010) Communication: The Process, Barriers, And Improving Effectiveness. Retrieved from

https://www.mcgill.ca/engage/files/engage/communication_lunenburg_2010.pdf

R-Dueweke

Welcome Javier Reyes — new intern for AI

Javier Reyes
Intern from Merrimack College

I am Javier Reyes, a senior student at Merrimack College, located in North Andover, Massachusetts. The college was founded in 1947 by the Order of St. Augustine, with an initial goal to educate World War II veterans. I am double majoring in Theology, and Ethics and Political Philosophy with a minor in Catholic Studies. I am having a tremendous opportunity to do my college internship at the United Nations headquarters in New York, under the office of the Augustinians International. My time in the office is from June 1 – 30, 2019.

 

Why do I want to do this internship? I envision my dream career not in a cubicle, but working directly with people. I want to become a bridge that connects the problems and needs of a community to the possible solutions and opportunities for them. Human dignity has been diminished by discrimination, poverty, work exploitation, and physical and psychological violence. Additionally, the health and education systems, women and children face injustice and inequality. Human dignity is also negatively impacted by the climate change issue which affects the most vulnerable and poor. In short, human rights are violated and diminished in our communities. For this, I know that the United Nations and Augustinians International are suitable places to learn about these actual problems. Thus, during this internship I want to attain accurate data, statistics, history, and future solutions for these issues.

 

What do I hope from this internship? I hope to improve my communication and public speaking skills, to develop critical thinking and reasoning when applying my theological and philosophical education, and to analyze the problems previously mentioned. I would also hope to gain new methods for sharing ideas, and to improve my attentiveness and grasp of the main messages of conferences and books. Lastly, I hope to learn about the art of debate and to be able to explain, and apply the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But besides these short term goals, my greatest desire is to have a transformation of mind and spirit every day, and to become a better human.

 

As an intern I have developed three goals : first, reflection : a weekly reflection on my challenges, weakness, strength, and learning along with a brief description of the conferences I will be attending. Second, learning about advocacy and networking : acquiring specific tools, methods, and systems on how to become an advocate, and learn to create professional networking.

Third, life application : incorporate my learning and understanding of the United Nations into my college and professional life. Next semester I will attempt to work with Lazarus House Ministries, a Non-Profit Organization in Lawrence, Massachusetts. A program that “Works to break the cycle of poverty by providing food, clothing, work preparation, and housing to those in need “.

 

R-Dueweke

Video Project of Tijuana Orphanage

Bro. Dominic Smith, OSA, a student of theology in Chicago and a member of the California Province, is a specialist in video production. He applies his talents in highlighting the ministries of Augustinians through the use of video and image. His recent production is the orphanage that the Augustinians initiated years ago in Tijuana, Mexico. The video  “Casa Hogar La Gloria” can be accessed here:

http://www.hogar-infantil.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtPXPk_fP4s&feature=youtu.be

There is a plan for another project on the Augustinians at the United Nations. Hopefully, this video project will begin in July 2019.

For more information on other social justice projects of the California Province, see https://www.californiaaugustinians.org/st-augustine-foundation

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 3.39.39 PM

Reporte sobre la Conferencia de la Condición de la Mujer (CSW 63)

20 de Marzo de 2019

 

Reporte de la Comisión de la Condición de la Mujer (CSW63).

 

Jean Soto, delegada

Más de 5,000 mujeres de todo el mundo se dieron cita en Nueva York para asistir en las Naciones Unidas a la sesión de la Comisión de la Condición de la Mujer (CSW63).

Como Delegada de la organización no gubernamental (NGO) Augustinians International, tuve el honor de estar presente entre ese número de participantes para ratificar el tema de la conferencia: “Sistemas de protección social, acceso a servicios públicos e infraestructura sustentable para la igualdad de género y el empoderamiento de las mujeres y niñas”. Las representantes reunidas también se comprometieron consigo mismas al logro de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible, en particular el #5, “Igualdad de Género”. (Los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible ODS en español pueden consultarse en: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/es/)

            Mujeres de cada país que tengan misión con las Naciones Unidas entregaron un Reporte sobre los retos y avances relacionados con el tema. Por ejemplo, la representante de Nigeria y del oeste de África resaltó que el 66% de su población es joven, de la cual el 55% son mujeres, muchas de ellas viven en comunidades rurales. Con la intención de impulsar su desarrollo, las mujeres de las Naciones Unidas han obtenido miles de becas en variados campos técnicos y de formación para el trabajo.

            Otros ejemplos: Las representantes del Foro de las 18 Islas del Pacífico reportaron que su reto más significativo lo es la crisis climática. Ellas afirmaron el Acuerdo de París para combatir el cambio climático y mencionaron la necesidad de una mayor presencia de las Naciones Unidas, especialmente en la zona norte de esas Islas. Expusieron que se requieren más mujeres líderes con estrategias para remediar el cambio climático.

           Mujeres representantes de la región Árabe dijeron que adoptarían los objetivos de la Comisión (CWS). Puntualizaron que algunos estados árabes han perdido el progreso que habían hecho. Mencionaron las zonas de Guerra, el terrorismo y la migración como algunas de las causas de pérdida de progreso.           

            En la sesión misma, me encontré con colegas de mi alma mater, la preparatoria Loretto Academy, a la que acudí en El Paso, Texas. Beth Blissman, Ph.D, la representante ante las Naciones Unidas de Loretto Communities, organizó un evento con estudiantes de dicha preparatoria, quienes atendieron esta sesión de la Comisión CSW63. Las mujeres jóvenes son residentes transfronterizas. Ellas tienen la habilidad de navegar entre los diferentes idiomas y culturas de las ciudades hermanas de El Paso, Texas, USA y ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México.

            Las estudiantes expresaron que, aunque estaban muy familiarizados con la situación migratoria en nuestra frontera, en un panel de discusión de las Naciones Unidas aprendieron a preguntar una nueva cuestión: ¿Por qué vienen los migrantes? Las respuestas -dijeron- fueron reveladoras. Aprendieron sobre los antecedentes históricos de los migrantes en el contexto de las relaciones internacionales de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica y sus políticas en las Américas.           

            Esta experiencia de estudiantes de preparatoria descubriendo

las razones profundas que nos afectan a todos: es una manera que las Naciones Unidas prepara a hombres y mujeres jóvenes para incorporarlos al mundo globalizado como ciudadanos informados y responsables.

            Desde mi perspectiva, yo no puedo sobreestimar el valor de esas mujeres valientes que en cada parte del mundo producen un cambio creativo. La experiencia de verlas trabajar juntas es verdaderamente impresionante.

“Un mundo que es bueno para las mujeres es bueno para todos”.

 

Respectivamente presentado,

Jean Ponder Soto, Ph.D.

Delegada de Augustinian International NGO ante las Naciones Unidas

 

IMG_4630

Report from the Women’s Conference (CSW 63)

March 20, 2019

Report on the 2019 United Nations Commission On The Status of Women (CSW63).

 

CSW 63

            Over 5,000 women from all over the world came to New York for the United Nations Commission On The Status of Women (CSW63). As a delegate with the non-governmental organization Augustinians International, I was honored to be among that number to ratify the theme of the conference, “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” The assembled representatives also recommitted themselves to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goal # 5, “Gender Equality.”

            Women from every country with a UN mission gave a report on the challenges and developments related to the theme. For example, the representative from Nigeria and West African States noted that 66% of their population is young and 55% are women, many in rural communities. With a view to their development, UN Women have awarded hundreds of scholarships in various technical and vocational fields.

            Other examples: The representatives from the Pacific Islands Forum reported their most significant challenge is from the climate crisis. They affirmed the Paris Climate Accord and told of the need for a greater UN presence, especially in the Northern islands. More women leaders are needed, they reported, in strategies for climate change remedies.

           Women from the Arab Commission said they would adopt the CSW63 aims. They noted some Arab states have lost the progress they had made. They gave warring areas, terrorism, and immigration as some of the causes for the losses.  

            At a side event I met with members of my high school alma mater, Loretto Academy in El Paso, Texas. Beth Blissman, Ph.D, the representative to the UN for the Loretto Communities, organized an event with the Loretto high school students who attended the CSW63. The young women are trans-border residents. They have the ability to navigate the different yet integrated languages and cultures of the sister cities of El Paso, TX, USA and Juarez, Chihuahua MX.

            The students said they were very familiar with the migrant situation on our border, but learned to ask an important new question at a UN panel discussion: “Why do the migrants come to the border?” The responses, they said, were eye opening. They learned about the migrants’ historical background in the context of US international relations and policies in the Americas.     

            This experience of high school students discovering the deeper reasons that affect us all is a way the United Nations prepares young men and women to enter the globalized world as informed and caring citizens.

            From my perspective, I cannot over estimate the value of these courageous women in every part of the world to bring about creative change. The experience of seeing them work together is truly awesome.

“A world that is good for women is good for everyone.”

Respectively Submitted,

Jean Ponder Soto, Ph.D.

Augustinian International NGO Delegate to the United Nations

R-Dueweke

Report on the Women’s Conference (Scroll for Spanish)

March 20, 2019

Report on the 2019 United Nations Commission On The Status of Women (CSW63).

 

CSW 63

           Over 5,000 women from all over the world came to New York for the United Nations Commission On The Status of Women (CSW63). As a delegate with the non-governmental organization Augustinians International, I was honored to be among that number to ratify the theme of the conference, “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” The assembled representatives also recommitted themselves to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goal # 5, “Gender Equality.”

            Women from every country with a UN mission gave a report on the challenges and developments related to the theme. For example, the representative from Nigeria and West African States noted that 66% of their population is young and 55% are women, many in rural communities. With a view to their development, UN Women have awarded hundreds of scholarships in various technical and vocational fields.

            Other examples: The representatives from the Pacific Islands Forum reported their most significant challenge is from the climate crisis. They affirmed the Paris Climate Accord and told of the need for a greater UN presence, especially in the Northern islands. More women leaders are needed, they reported, in strategies for climate change remedies.

           Women from the Arab Commission said they would adopt the CSW63 aims. They noted some Arab states have lost the progress they had made. They gave warring areas, terrorism, and immigration as some of the causes for the losses.  

       

Students from Loretto Academy, El Paso, TX

    At a side event I met with members of my high school alma mater, Loretto Academy in El Paso, Texas. Beth Blissman, Ph.D, the representative to the UN for the Loretto Communities, organized an event with the Loretto high school students who attended the CSW63. The young women are trans-border residents. They have the ability to navigate the different yet integrated languages and cultures of the sister cities of El Paso, TX, USA and Juarez, Chihuahua MX.

            The students said they were very familiar with the migrant situation on our border, but learned to ask an important new question at a UN panel discussion: “Why do the migrants come to the border?” The responses, they said, were eye opening. They learned about the migrants’ historical background in the context of US international relations and policies in the Americas.     

            This experience of high school students discovering the deeper reasons that affect us all is a way the United Nations prepares young men and women to enter the globalized world as informed and caring citizens.

            From my perspective, I cannot over estimate the value of these courageous women in every part of the world to bring about creative change. The experience of seeing them work together is truly awesome.

“A world that is good for women is good for everyone.”

Respectively Submitted,

Jean Ponder Soto, Ph.D.

Augustinian International NGO Delegate to the United Nations

****

20 de Marzo de 2019

Reporte de la Comisión de la Condición de la Mujer (CSW63).

Jean Soto, delegada

Más de 5,000 mujeres de todo el mundo se dieron cita en Nueva York para asistir en las Naciones Unidas a la sesión de la Comisión de la Condición de la Mujer (CSW63).

Como Delegada de la organización no gubernamental (NGO) Augustinians International, tuve el honor de estar presente entre ese número de participantes para ratificar el tema de la conferencia: “Sistemas de protección social, acceso a servicios públicos e infraestructura sustentable para la igualdad de género y el empoderamiento de las mujeres y niñas”. Las representantes reunidas también se comprometieron consigo mismas al logro de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible, en particular el #5, “Igualdad de Género”. (Los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible ODS en español pueden consultarse en: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/es/)

            Mujeres de cada país que tengan misión con las Naciones Unidas entregaron un Reporte sobre los retos y avances relacionados con el tema. Por ejemplo, la representante de Nigeria y del oeste de África resaltó que el 66% de su población es joven, de la cual el 55% son mujeres, muchas de ellas viven en comunidades rurales. Con la intención de impulsar su desarrollo, las mujeres de las Naciones Unidas han obtenido miles de becas en variados campos técnicos y de formación para el trabajo.

            Otros ejemplos: Las representantes del Foro de las 18 Islas del Pacífico reportaron que su reto más significativo lo es la crisis climática. Ellas afirmaron el Acuerdo de París para combatir el cambio climático y mencionaron la necesidad de una mayor presencia de las Naciones Unidas, especialmente en la zona norte de esas Islas. Expusieron que se requieren más mujeres líderes con estrategias para remediar el cambio climático.

           Mujeres representantes de la región Árabe dijeron que adoptarían los objetivos de la Comisión (CWS). Puntualizaron que algunos estados árabes han perdido el progreso que habían hecho. Mencionaron las zonas de Guerra, el terrorismo y la migración como algunas de las causas de pérdida de progreso.           

Estudiantes de Loretto Academy El Paso, TX

            En la sesión misma, me encontré con colegas de mi alma mater, la preparatoria Loretto Academy, a la que acudí en El Paso, Texas. Beth Blissman, Ph.D, la representante ante las Naciones Unidas de Loretto Communities, organizó un evento con estudiantes de dicha preparatoria, quienes atendieron esta sesión de la Comisión CSW63. Las mujeres jóvenes son residentes transfronterizas. Ellas tienen la habilidad de navegar entre los diferentes idiomas y culturas de las ciudades hermanas de El Paso, Texas, USA y ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México.

            Las estudiantes expresaron que, aunque estaban muy familiarizados con la situación migratoria en nuestra frontera, en un panel de discusión de las Naciones Unidas aprendieron a preguntar una nueva cuestión: ¿Por qué vienen los migrantes? Las respuestas -dijeron- fueron reveladoras. Aprendieron sobre los antecedentes históricos de los migrantes en el contexto de las relaciones internacionales de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica y sus políticas en las Américas.           

            Esta experiencia de estudiantes de preparatoria descubriendo

las razones profundas que nos afectan a todos: es una manera que las Naciones Unidas prepara a hombres y mujeres jóvenes para incorporarlos al mundo globalizado como ciudadanos informados y responsables.

            Desde mi perspectiva, yo no puedo sobreestimar el valor de esas mujeres valientes que en cada parte del mundo producen un cambio creativo. La experiencia de verlas trabajar juntas es verdaderamente impresionante.

“Un mundo que es bueno para las mujeres es bueno para todos”.

Respectivamente presentado,

Jean Ponder Soto, Ph.D.

Delegada de Augustinian International NGO ante las Naciones Unidas

 

R-Dueweke

Pilgrimage Retreat to Central America 2019

Link to article on pilgrimage AND gallery of photos

Trail of Blood and Tears: A Spiritual Journey to Central America

By Robert Dueweke, OSA

January 2019

The shocks shook me out of a deep sleep. The blasts sounded like bombs or explosives, but I wasn’t sure. Again the sounds cracked the cold night air like thunder claps. Bam-bam-bam. Then I heard the rumbling of heavy trucks down the cobblestone road outside the walls of my adobe bedroom. The frightening sounds played tricks on my waking mind. I imagined trucks transporting soldiers with machine-guns. My blood turned ice cold, chilling my whole body with fear. Are we under attack? Is the army going to kill more civilians? I made an act of contrition and, for a second, wondered why I had so little faith.

In the morning, I asked about the bomb-sounding blasts. A group leader said the sounds were harmless, only the customary fireworks for a birthday celebration. Thus began my ten-day spiritual journey in January 2019 to Central America.

A spiritual journey to Central America

The Maryknoll Society of Priests and Brothers organize an annual pilgrimage retreat for clergy and religious brothers that trace the footsteps of modern-day martyrs in El Salvador and in Guatemala. Our pilgrimage group consisted of seventeen participants from different parts of the U.S. and Canada and five Maryknoll missioners who personally knew and worked with the martyrs.

Who thinks of martyrs these days, those men and women from the past who courageously lived and died in service to the people and to their faith? Like the statues and stained glass windows of a church, I discovered that martyrs are found in the memory of the community.

Through the eyes and experiences of the suffering poor and the martyrs, this retreat offers an opportunity to reflect on our faith, mission, and relationship with God. The shedding of blood is the context; listening and observing are attitudes the participants need on this retreat.

Trail of Blood and Tears: The Hidden Story

Archbishop (saint) Oscar Romero — El Salvador

On the first morning, we departed the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, and traveled six hours to the San Salvador Cathedral of the Holy Savior in El Salvador. Our first stop was the gravesite of Archbishop Oscar Romero, now saint. A bronze sculpture of the bishop in the state of rest was placed over the tomb. A red marble glass, the size of a golf ball, was inserted over his heart. It indicates his death by an assassin’s bullet in 1980. We then drove to an isolated area in the countryside where the four American female missionaries were tortured, raped and executed that same year. The retreat team then led us to the University of Central America. In 1989, in the middle of the night, at their residence on campus, a death squad killed six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. By the end of the day, our group was emotionally exhausted. I felt numb and did not know how to think. Each stop was a place visited by evil but also a “holy ground” to be venerated.

Room where Fr. (Blessed) Stan Rother was killed by a death squad

After several days of reflection on these terrible events, we returned to Guatemala. Our van crossed over a mountain pass that opened to the view of a large, deep blue, lake surrounded by volcanoes. On the shore of the lake lies the town of Santiago Atitlán. Oklahoma City priest, Fr. Stanley Rother, now blessed and the first American martyr, gave his life here in 1981 for his Tz’utujil Maya parishioners.

In Santiago Atitlán, we also heard testimonies from survivors of massacres that happened around the country. We heard from the bereaved who lost family members to kidnappers or death squads. Their loved ones were never seen again — their remains thought to be in an unmarked mass grave.

In Guatemala, the army launched a murderous campaign of fear and a reign of terror against defenseless natives of the Mayan communities. Throughout the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), an estimated 700 massacres were carried out ending the lives of 250,000 innocent people, mostly Mayas.

Always working in the middle of the night and in an inhuman frenzy, the soldiers barged into the thatched roof huts, broke down doors, and killed everything that moved – the elderly, pregnant women, and infants. The slaughter was done in the name of anti-communism, an unfounded accusation by wealthy landowners, military, and business leaders. Church leadership, since colonial times, often sided with the wealthy elite to protect its own interests.

Catholic leaders and ministers who helped the poor with their basic needs and preached social justice were targeted. We learned about a bishop, 17 priests, and 2000 catechists were slaughtered because their work with the poor was considered to be subversive activity. To ask questions about the economic and political structures that kept people in poverty was an aggression against the state and labeled as communist activity. Sadly, such accusations of aggression also occurred in El Salvador, in other countries in Central, and in Latin America.

Many courageous people committed to social justice risk their lives – still, to this day — collecting evidence and stories from rural Mayas through the Church’s Office for Human Rights.

Why did the army massacre its people? What forces lie behind the hidden story of so much racism and hatred? The Guatemalan government’s systematic violence began in 1954 as a reaction against the “Ten Years of Spring” – a period that included agrarian land reform supported by the previous, democratically elected, administrations. New laws gave poor farmers access to uncultivated land to grow their crops of corn and beans. It was the first legislative attempt to bring Guatemala into the modern era. Signs of progress took root. And yet, the wealthy, powerful few, objected to the direction the country was taking. So, too, did that country in the north.

The U.S. government wanted to have nothing to do with such progress; land reform was trumpeted as communist. This was a lie for the sake of economic and political dominance. The truth was that land and agricultural reform were bad for American investments, especially for the interests of the United Fruit Company. Bananas continue to be cultivated with the imposed servitude and blood of indigenous workers.

Determined to halt such reforms by democratically elected governments, U.S. political and military involvement in Guatemala had a direct impact on creating conditions for the deaths of thousands of poor people. The present-day poverty, assassinations, and corruption are a result of American foreign policy meddling in the political and economic affairs of just Guatemala, but throughout Central America. This is the hidden story of what the U.S. government continues to do in the name of its citizens. These appalling political and economic strategies have been widely documented.

Their Story, Our History

“This is an unusual form of retreat/pilgrimage: you will be implicated in their martyrdom, the massacres with those who died, with those who survived and live with the everyday martyrdom of the poor. You dared to walk with them; you are implicated. Now you can tell their story; now you can tell your story.” Maryknoll brother Mary Shea.

The martyrs “spoke truth to power” and shed their blood as witnesses to the Gospel in their solidarity with the people they served. The ancient Latin theologian Tertullian wrote that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.

I witnessed a church alive with a Vatican II spirit of communion and participation at a Sunday Eucharist in the parish in Santiago Atitlán. Blessed Stanley Rother had left the country because his life was in danger, yet he returned to be with his parishioners: “This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm. The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” He was ultimately murdered by a C.I.A. -trained death squad. His heart and blood are buried in a parish shrine; they are also sources of life and presence in traditional Mayan beliefs. These symbols speak of the triumph of goodness over evil. The same is true for the blood of martyrs in El Salvador. Philosopher and theologian Ignacio Ellacuría, slain with the six Jesuits at the university, wrote of his friend and archbishop: “With Monseñor Romero God passed through El Salvador.”

What have I learned from this pilgrimage experience? As a representative for the Augustinian Order at the United Nations, my understanding of dictators and autocratic regimes has become more personalized. I see more clearly the link between the bloody history of Central America and the migration of people to the U.S./Mexico border. I learned what you, dear reader, find objectionable: the scandalous involvement of U.S. administrations, in the name of its American citizens, and in the so-called fight against communism, in sacrificing human lives on the altars of business corporations throughout Central America.

We, as Americans, must know this hidden story, the history of U.S. foreign policy. The frenzy over building the wall on the southern border is an attempt to block out and erase forever that history. As the American philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Bishop Gerardi – murdered
Archdiocesan Human Rights Office

When I reflect back on those imagined bombings that first morning in Antigua, I realized it was a moment of grace. For a brief moment, I experienced what the martyrs might have experienced: the shock and fear, as well as the struggle to pray for the strength to stare into the darkness and to commit oneself into the hands of God.

Through the eyes and experiences of the suffering poor and the martyrs, this retreat offers an opportunity to reflect on our faith, mission, and relationship with God. Personally, I learned more about my emptiness and poverty. I also recognize that mission embraces a radical dependence on the power of love. This is how I am “implicated” and this is what I must preach: expose the evil of the lie and welcome the poor, the stranger, and the refugee as the Crucified Christ seeking compassion and hospitality at our nation’s borders. The real border wall is the one erected in our mind and heart that shuts out questioning and forgets our history.

Suggested reading

Thomas Melville, Through a Glass Darkly. The U.S. Holocaust in Central America, 2005.

Optional resource: –https://uscatholic.org/articles/201901/why-so-many-risk-it-all-cross-border-31620