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The priest was crying because he himself had lost two of his brothers because of the confessions of Felipe to the army. It took some other meetings, but finally the blame was put were it belonged. Nevertheless Felipe wanted to make material reparation to Isabel. He gave her a used pedal sewing machine of his, so that her son could make a living by selling typical jackets in the market for tourists. He also gave her a eucalyptus tree to plant in her land. Suddenly, they both felt free and an amazing thing happened: They both started to make their leadership training come true.

They both launched compost latrine projects in their villages, and then both started forestry programs and later both started organic farming with groups from their villages. Their groups got together occasionally to share their project experiences and it was a happy occasion when this happened. The question of forgiveness, it seems to me, is a personal and interior matter. It is something only the violated can do and it is an agonizing process.

I see two necessary conditions that make it possible for victims to forgive. First, victims must recover a sense of personal agency and power. Second, victims need a sense of safety that comes from the confidence that the violence will not recur. Mental health programs that begin to address these issues have already been mentioned. Manuel, one such victim, observes a difference between those who can forgive and those who cannot. Those who had received some psychological help—he among them—were better able to forgive. Forgiveness is as important to the emotional freedom of the guilty as of the victim, and it is amazing in the amount of life-giving power it has.

Victims, such as the widows, who were powerless when victimized, now have the power in their hands. They have the power of liberating themselves and the guilty, and of giving everyone the chance of living a new life. Should pastors, who may or may not be victims themselves, simply call for forgiveness?

Can they speak for those whose depression may make them psychically unable to forgive? Victims know too much about the darkness of human beings and have had to wrestle with the question of where God was in all of this suffering. What the church should be doing is preaching that through Christ there is the promise of new life—resurrection—now. This is the good news to both victims and perpetrators.

In Exclusion and Embrace Volf explores the process of reconciliation. In Guatemala the intent of the the Peace Accord was to transform social arrangements. It called for, among other things, the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of women, the provision of land for the poor, and the reform of the military and national police. The struggle to create more just social arrangements continues as activists work for criminal and for restorative justice and, the protection of human rights, and for social justice.

Referenced in almost all of the essays is the parable of the prodigal son. Volf describes four steps by which those who are alienated can embrace one another. Third, when there is reciprocity we are able to close our arms, not in submission to the others or demanding that they give up who they are, but in acceptance.

Fourth, reopening of the arms is a sign that others remain free to be who they are. The spotlight of most truth commissions is often on the victims. It is they who speak. The perpetrators—with rare exception—remain in the shadows and silent. Sin is present on all sides, the evil inflicted on victims often resulting in reactive victimization, if not against the perpetrators, against others.

Volf does not say the universal presence of sin lessens guilt for profound injustices. The evil Volf is describing is reflected in the many fault lines in present day Guatemala. Fernando Suazo, a psychologist and pastoral theologian identifies the violence that plagues Guatemala: men violating women, adults violating children, religious groups deeply hostile toward each another, and the poor fighting each other.

We cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. It is personal and social distance and that prevents personal encounter and reconciliation and the restoration of community. There is not yet an embrace. John Paul Lederach, a Mennonite who has engaged in the work of reconciliation and peace building from Nicaragua to Northern Ireland, calls reconciliation a locus and a focus, an intersection where truths of past injustices meet future prospects of mercy and compassion.

Lederach has worked with communities torn apart by conflict in order to find that space. He describes the experience of a religious-based conciliation team in Nicaragua, mediating between the Sandinista government and an indigenous resistance movement. We are bearers of … direction and of hope, of forgiveness and of grace, of truth and freedom. As witnesses of Christ we are sowers of seeds of fraternity without exclusion, of dignity without prejudice.


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Through its programs it works for reconciliation through both the transformation of social arrangements and individual self-identities. In its efforts to rebalance the power structure, Caritas teaches skills of advocacy and negotiation in order to empower those excluded from the political process. Caritas recently assisted Mayas in peacefully resisting impunity. A local policeman kidnapped two women and raped and murdered one of them.

Members of the community protested en masse, confronted the police, and negotiated with local authorities to prosecute and punish the perpetrator. Their approach was to single out the offender while assuring the police that they considered the crime to be an exception to local police conduct. The prosecution of the policeman was almost unheard of. He was found guilty and sentenced to fifty years in prison. He escaped from prison last year but was recaptured a few months later and continues his life in jail. Caritas teaches conflict resolution skills to community leaders who in turn teach them to their communities.

It teaches methods of cooperation to more effectively address economic, social, educational, and health needs of the community. These are ways to overcome isolation, anomie, the lack of the social capacity, fragmentation of communities, and the sense of powerlessness. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both the sense of inferiority and superiority need to be overcome. The pastoral worker whom I have quoted above describes where the process begins:.

Some reconciliation workers have recognized the need to take the following steps: recognize myself as a victim of injustice and verbalizing my truth and my suffering and going through a period of finger pointing those responsible. Finally, I can call myself a healed person when I recognize that my political and personal actions no longer come from my wounds but from my wellspring of life or spirit.

Two Gospel images offer a vision of reconciliation in Guatemala. The first is the image of the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus.

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For Christians, the divine Kingdom of love and justice is the standard to which social arrangements aspire. Once alone and guilt-ridden, the wayward son is now embraced by his father. Alienation is overcome. Guatemala Christian communities are entrusted with the great challenge of overcoming alienation between victims and victimizers. They finally confess in agonizing fashion the painful truths of murder and betrayal.

The identity of the two finally surfaces: he is Cortez, the despoiling conquistador who abandoned La Malinche, his indigenous translator and lover—along with their sons—for a light-skinned woman. She killed their two sons. This paper has explored the possibility of societal healing in Guatemala through justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We talk about these things but may not agree on what they are and how they relate to one another. Criminal justice remains a distant goal in Guatemala. I have suggested three kinds of criminal justice.

Mayan War Widows In Guatemala, 1st Edition

Ultimately justice reforms the systems that have wreaked havoc on the lives of so many. Restorative justice in some forms is possible in Guatemala and is an important component of healing. Forgiveness takes different forms and can only be nurtured with great sensitivity. It requires resuscitation of persons whose very selves have been severely diminished. People do not forgive systems, they reform them. They may, however, forgive people who were agents of the system.

It will require speaking the truth, so that victims can heal and their suffering not be forgotten. Mysteriously, compassion can flow in both directions. Offenders may look into the eyes of victims and see broken hearts. Victims may look into the eyes of offenders and see a false worldview that has robbed them of their humanity. Reconciliation is a long term goal that begins to happen when the beneficiaries of the system acknowledge their complicity and affirm the human dignity of the victims.

Reconciliation is the work of many people who have committed themselves to change evil systems. It is a societal undertaking. Reconciliation begins when light has been shed on the truth—and that is the work of truth commissions. It requires that truth be spoken for all to hear.

The TRC allowed the truth to be spoken so that its distortions by the authors and agents of Apartheid could not stand. Manuel offers an intriguing observation about a broader form of reconciliation. He describes the years of war and destruction as a disturbance of the cosmic order, because politicians and armies tried to usurp the power of God.

This was the army, [and] the intellectual authors of the mass killing. But now the proper human order is restored. In that time we could not see God. Manuel is now a member of a parish pastoral team. Indeed, much healing remains. I salute him and thousands of others who courageously seek justice and peace.

Michael K. Duffey, Marquette University, specializes in theological ethics with particular attention to issues of justice and peace and Protestant and Catholic ethical methodologies. Duffey co-directs the University's interdisciplinary minor in Justice and Peace Studies.

His current research concerns the role of the churches in Central America in post conflict healing and development.


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  8. Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace. Readers may duplicate articles and quote from the journal without permission, provided no changes are made in the text and full credit is given to the author. Skip to Navigation. Leave this field blank:. Volume 4. Issue 1, Fall Catholic Initiatives The first initiative of the Catholic Church after the violence subsided was to accompany survivors like Manuel living in the high mountains of Central Guatemala and in Mexican camps back to their ancestral areas. Her analysis also suggests that Rwanda and Serbia, devastated by war to name only two areas that are currently trying to live with the consequences of fratricide wars will not be able to heal at an individual, community or national level for a long time.

    With the attention more focused on the survival strategies of the widows, Green also deals with biographic history in her work.

    Guatemalan genocide - Wikipedia

    Very much influenced by the recent current of cultural materialistic theory, Green uses her readings of Michel Foucault, Antonio Gramsci, Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall, among others, to analyze what she sees as a dialectic relationship between change and continuity.

    She shares the common concern in many ethnographies written in the past two decades, especially by American scholars, about ethics and the responsibilities deriving from research and written works, and she justifies her work in the first chapter that states the theoretical, thematic and cultural context of her book declaring that she has the responsibility of narrating her experiences.

    This is why Green emphasizes the continuity of violence patterns in Guatemala, while Zur emphasizes rupture. In the same way, Green shows how Guatemala has been the battlefield between the Catholic and Protestant branches of Christianism, and this fact has had its own corrosive repercussions inside the Indigenous communities even when the converted ones find sense, relief and encouragement in Evangelic teachings. The third chapter documents what it means to live in an atmosphere of terror both for the ethnographers and to the villagers, an atmosphere dominated by secrecy and silence imposed by the government that refuses to force the military to answer for their actions.

    Like some others, Green believes that the introduction of capitalism has weakened the economic man-woman complementarity, 10 but she also documents the economic position of widows who suffer, apart from the loss of family members, the loss of homes, fields and personal belongings. In a small section, she details the attempts of various organizations to provide economic assistance and social support to these women. She shows that, although these projects and organizations occasionally managed to change the economic circumstances of the widows, they often helped Mayan women to reflect on their own identity in a broader context, more historical and cultural.

    Chapter 6 considers the action of weaving as a means of expression of Mayan feminine identity, apart from being a way of making a living, encouraged by small non-governmental organizations and a few local cooperatives. This is one of the best two chapters of the book and in it the author proves that conversion and affiliation are two different phenomena, and she describes the reasons why Guatemalan Indians, especially women, find these sects so attractive.

    From economic reasons at the top of which there is the desire to avoid the obligations of brotherhoods , to the possibility of collectively expressing emotions in a healthy way eg. Green sees the protestant sects more as religions that offer survival messages and relief from suffering than as religions of repression or as economic opportunities. At the same time, this chapter restates that the recent civil war, in spite of being much more horrid, takes place over a violent historic past with which the Mayan communities have had to deal for a long time.

    Diane M. The author displays an astonishing order of rhetoric and theoretical readings, but even if the book is very informative, it leaves the reader disturbed due to its self-centered tone. It offers ethnography of a growing movement of Indigenous rights mainly concentrated in , year of the quincentennial. Alternating between the concepts of the wounds of individual bodies and tose of the political body of Guatemala, her chapters are also based in the concept of fluidarity.

    She uses this term to note the ambiguity, contradictions and constant change that characterizes the political and cultural atmosphere in Guatemala, as well as its rejection to binary categories. It uses the beating suffered by an American tourist in an Indigenous village of the Altiplano as the lens through which she describes her own experiences, and she concludes that the American -anthropologists, activists and others from the left wing- must abandon all remaining hopes of a trouble-free solidarity with the Indigenous groups, among which the American fantasize of finding only heroines, never villains.

    Xquic (also known as Quiché or K'iche')

    Chapters 3 and 4 detail the relationship nature of the Guatemalan State with the Mayan and the attempts of the latter to influence, even to participate, in the State. Understanding that these ideas have their origin in the belief that the white woman is pure and the Indigenous woman is sexually aggressive by nature contributes to undermine any conceptualization of a unifying mestizo cultural identity for the Guatemalan population.

    Chapters 7 and 8 study the Mayan activist groups; in them it is analyzed how they make use of modern visual and sound technology as well as computers to communicate with their communities, cities of Guatemala and also abroad. Chapter 8 studies this topic offering the best description in the book of the interaction of the Mayan activist groups with the government of Guatemala; it narrates how these groups exercised pressure, successfully, so that this document could become a law. However, Nelson warns that this may have contradictory results because the Indigenous groups may be introduced in the State apparatus or the State institutions may be invited to make part of said groups or both processes may take place simultaneously.

    At least Zur provides us with some material on the military experiences of men, but many questions remain unanswered. How are Mayan men dealing with the economical changes of the eighties and nineties? How was life for the survivors, especially for the children? An anthropology of man is, paradoxically, a necessary result of an anthropology of woman, but it will be totally different from the previous ethnographic studies that, easily subconsciously, actually , placed man at the center of the analysis.

    Problematizing masculinity means analyzing the life of men and the interrelations and separations between the cultural concepts of masculinity, sexuality, race, class and ethnia. When posing these questions, these three books represent a starting point for Guatemala.

    Apart from the challenge faced by contemporary anthropology of focusing more closely on a whole range of gender experiences, it is before another challenge, that of taking as base the study of individual localities in order to examine regional, national and transnational change processes.

    Mayan-widow self-help group, Guatemala

    Each author uses a different strategy regarding place and locality. However, she places more efficiently this area within a broader regional and national history and she provides the most accurate description of the war period. Her books provides the reader with a deep understanding of the relationship between the history of Emol and that of recent Guatemala, especially the causes and the social impact of the intense fratricidal violence.

    Although her book contains valuable knowledge, it is not a book we read to gain a level of understanding of violence per se. Partly an urban ethnography that describes people and events in the city of Guatemala, and partly a postmodern reflection of the problematic nationalism of Guatemala, this is a book about concepts of identity and not about life as it is lived in specific places.

    A Finger in the Wound also poses a question on whether a postmodern ethnography with such a fluid structure may provide an adequate representation of the historic forces that created the Guatemala of the beginning of the nineties. For being a book that emphasizes the continuity of change, it intriguingly lacks historic and cultural context, providing only the most superficial narration of the war period and the relationships of the Mayan with the army and the guerrillas.

    In fact, a deeper and more extensive historical perspective could lead us to question how much the political situation of the Guatemalan Indian —man or woman- will actually change. Ir al contenido principal. Ir al contenido secundario. University of Houston. Another innovative feminist anthropological text followed a year later, Rayne Reiter, ed.

    Siegel, Alan Beals, and Stephen Tyler, eds. Monkkonnen, ed.

    Post-War Guatemala

    Durham, E. Valentine Daniel, and Bambi B. Schieffelin, eds. McKenna Brown, eds. Murdo J.