Delegates created an altar to accompany a presentation during Sunday service, in which the congregation was invited into the UUCA-PAG experience in Guatemala.
“As delegates, our hearts were filled and transformed by our time in Guatemala,” shares UUCA Ministerial Intern Shelly Thompson. We gave our congregation an opportunity to have their hearts touched and to feel the richness and beauty, resilience and hope that was so generously shared with us. The tone was reverent and solemn in a way that lifted up the power, perseverance, and courage of the Guatemalans we met.”
During the service, the delegates read quotes collected from people they met with on the delegation, bookending the moving sermon by Reverend Aaron McEmrys. Click here to listen to the sermon, found at minute 35:25 on December 13, 11:15 am worship (in Archives). These quotes represent a small sampling of the deep and moving experiences the delegates had while meeting with Guatemalan human rights defenders and communities fighting for social justice and defending land, life and culture.
“I am the only member of my family who survived the genocide; the military killed my wife and my children… I will never stop seeking justice for the murder of my family.”
“We know that forgiveness is possible…but who are we going to forgive if we don’t know who the perpetrators are? We must persevere to learn the truth and to seek justice.”
“My father who is 64 is in prison…He was accused of kidnapping and carrying out illegal meetings. With the charge of kidnapping, he is not eligible for bail. Last February, they arrested my mother, who is 69, diabetic, and has pancreatic cancer. We had to close my father’s store and are now bankrupt, and I have come to the city to help my father with his trial. We are imprisoned as well; our lives have been taken over by these racist actions.”
“Mining companies come into our communities to get rich while leaving us with nothing. No one ever consulted with us; no one asked what we wanted; no one gave us a choice.”
“Ninety-eight per cent of the people in our town voted against the Tahoe silver mine in a referendum, but the mayor ignored it because the mining company paid him.”
“We have no water because the mine has poisoned our wells. We have a right to water. In the windy season, dust from the mine blows over the town, and people have respiratory illnesses. The heavy mining trucks have broken down our roads and cracked our adobe homes. I know someone who is a beekeeper in San Rafael. Once the mine began, all his bees died.”
“The Guatemalan military protects Tahoe Resources. Soldiers come to intimidate us with tanks and high caliber weapons. But we’re still here, standing up for our land.”
“If we protest peacefully, the government sends in the army with guns. The worst thing is to protest and not be heard.”
“The government calls us terrorists. They criminalize us to silence our voices. But we will never stop defending the land, the water, the life.”
“In the face of a storm, some animals go underground and bury their heads. But eagles fly above the storm. We need to be like the eagles…with the storm upon us, we choose to rise higher, knowing that our struggle is one that has value and dignity.”
“Things change only if you change them.”
“They tore away our fruit, cut our branches, burned our trunk, but they couldn’t kill our roots.”
“From our roots we will plant the seeds of a new society and Guatemala will flourish.”
Through the ACOGUATE project, NISGUA provides international accompaniment to the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, the political prisoners of Huehuetenango and their families, and CODIDENA. NISGUA also engages in strategic campaign work with the communities in resistance to Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine.