The Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Jesuit Curia in Rome


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Prayer at the "Summit" for Peace in Guatemala

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Prayer at the "Summit" for Peace in Guatemala

José Miguel Clemente SJ (BAM)

Prayer at the Summit takes place 13 kilometers from Santa María Chiquimula, on Guatemala's high plateau. It is a sign that it is still possible to keep hope alive for peace in Guatemala. Violence has taken a terrible toll there at the Summit for the sole highway leading to Santa María Chiquimula passes by there; it is a dangerously narrow highway with many curves that make it difficult to see cars traveling in either direction.

The likelihood of violence is greater on the market days that take place every week. That's when people come from outside Santa María to sell their products, and that's when the inhabitants of Santa María sell their woven goods to the itinerant merchants from other places and so obtain the funds they need to support their families. Since the market days determine the social and economic relations that each community has with other communities of the region, they provide the community with a special identity and social respect.

The Summit at Prayer becomes "the heart of heaven and the heart of earth" ("ukux kaj ukux ulew") as it brings together in a joint celebration the traditional communities (with their Mayan worldview) and the Evangelical and Catholic communities (with their Christian worldview), as well the fraternities (with their popular religiosity) and the principal local authorities. The ecumenical participation in this unified celebration expresses the people's desire for peace, and it demonstrates the inseparable bond between the service of faith and the promotion of justice that is rooted in that same ancestral faith of the community.

Prayer "goes to the depth of the Summit," reaching into the human heart, and so becomes indispensable for the task of seeking peace, both interior and exterior. Only peace can put an end to the lynching process, which is a strong emotional and cultural reaction that dehumanizes the local communities themselves. Without prayer the task of achieving civil and juridical peace is neither possible nor sufficient. Prayer from the heart opens up profound options of peace and justice to counter the violence and injustice that the Quiché communities of Guatemala have suffered in the past and continue to suffer.

The Prayer at the Summit, even as it reaches into the depths of our hearts, also allows us to be warmed and illumined by the "chaj," the fire of memory that precedes us and cares for us. The cruelly shed blood of many persons soaks the earth of the Summit and becomes cool, and it can be warmed and gathered again only by the fire of memory. Collecting this blood with the fire of memory warms our hearts and animates our efforts to defend life and to struggle for justice on behalf of the innocent of yesterday and today.

This fire of memory carries us toward the Origin that created us, and it unites us all together, reaching out even the humanity of the killers. When, by means of the fire of memory we gather the blood that has been shed, we are ever mindful of the "anamnesis" of the Eucharist, where Christ hands himself over for our sins (our violence) and saves us for eternal life. Collecting the blood of the victims unites it with the blood of Jesus, the blood that they cannot take from him because he offers it freely for all.