The People Cry to God
By: Jose Ricardo Guerrero CICM
Guatemala is a land of great sufferings especially for the indigenous Indian population. Fr. Jose Ricardo Guerrero, CICM is among these of his fellow CICMers asking what the Good News should be to these devastated people.
The Mayan Q’Eqchi people are part of the Indian nations that were conquered and colonized five hundred years ago. Since then, like other Indians in the Americas, and particularly in Guatemala, they never played a principal role in deciding their own future.
The CICM Missionaries in Guatemala first set the foot in the Mayan Q’ eqchi region in 1961. Presently, Father Melchor Villero, from the Philippines, three CICM interns: Arturo Querijero, also from the Philippines, Isidro Ndjibu from Zaire and Ven de la Cruz, from United States and I from the pastoral team in the Parish of El Calvalrio. The Parish has an area of 2,500 square kilometers with the approximately 96 Q’eqchi communities.
Fleeing Reign of Terror
Between the year 1978 and 1983- years of vigorous military offensives against the local; insurgents- most communities of the parish were violently affected. Scorched-earth policy was applied to those communities; community leaders and catechists were captured, tied like animals, tortured and executed, while the rest of the people were bought into concentration camps. Most fled over the border to Mexico, others to the cities while hundreds went in to hiding in the jungle. In 1989 the groups that fled in the jungle same under the protection if the Catholic Church. They had been in the jungle for five years suffering through cold, rain, hunger, malnutrition (especially the children) and various diseases. They were pale, lean and unkempt, a sorry sight to see. In January 1993, after long negotiation with the government to assure their security as a civilian population, and that their sights would be respected as such, the first groups of refugees returned from Mexico.
Trying to Resume
Slowly these people are integrating into communities and starting a new life. However, some still suffer psychologically from the effects of war. This is clearly seen in the difficulty they have uniting as one community. There is mistrust of one another. Some are still subject to military service. Men are obliged to patrol while young men are drafted or intimidated into military service for a minimum of three years.
The usual question of land tenancy goes on. This is the main problem, as it causes great injustice, poverty, violence and insecurity for the Indians. Moreover, the people are neglected by the government. Most communities do not have schools, or health and other social services.
Reign of God
In June, last year, catechists from the various sectors of the parish, and pastoral agents reflected on what the Reign of God should mean to the Mayan Q’eqchi people calling on their experience as a people, as they understand it and using their own words,
We raised the question: The Mayan Q’eqchi are an abandoned, abused, and neglected people, who have endured centuries of suffering. Is “Lis Nimajwal Wankilal li Dios” (which translates literally as “The Great Power of God”), the answer to their dream and aspiration? Would Jesus of Nazareth proclaim this kind of Kingdom this to the Mayan Q’eqchi people?
Jesus proclaimed a kingdom of the love of God for all women and men, a kingdom of compassion, community, salvation, liberation...in contrast to the religio-political kingdoms-of-this world that the people of his time had hoped for. These catechists believed the answer to their dream to be the Kingdom the Jesus proclaimed... truly the Reign of God. The catechists retranslated the expression Reign of God as Sahilal Wank
Sahilal Wank means literally a state of delicious feeling in the heart. Sahilal Wank is that reposeful feeling of a woman who was in labor finally dropping it onto the ground.
A group of catechists wrote this parable: A widow wanted to clean her field of weeds and bushes, cultivating it and sow grains of maize. But she was alone and weak. The neighbors came and took turns cleaning the field, cultivating it and sowing the grains for her. As an expression of gratefulness and joy, the widow prepared broth and tamales for a feast for the whole community. Everybody felt Sahilal Wank.
The catechists believe that God wants Sahilal Wank for the Mayan Q’eqchi people, especially to release then from all their sufferings, uncertainties, hopelessness, from sins committed against their neighbor, against their animals and mother earth, from evil people and external forces, from death and darkness. This is the will of God for them. This is the Good news