From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PRESBYTERIANS SOUGHT AS INTERNATIONAL WITNESSES
05 May 1996 09:00:12
95306 PRESBYTERIANS SOUGHT AS INTERNATIONAL WITNESSES
TO GUATEMALAN VIOLENCE
by Alexa Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--At least five more people are being sought to compose an
international team of witnesses in Guatemala where three members of the
Presbyterians church have been threatened by a death squad.
Marilie Robertson, a Presbyterian from Canoga Park, Calif., has been
dispatched to Guatemala. Robertson just completed a term in the Worldwide
Ministries Division reconciliation and mission program in Nicaragua.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Office of Latin America and
the Caribbean of the National Council of Churches are seeking at least five
more people to serve on accompaniment teams in Guatemala through
mid-November. The teams provide an international witness in case of further
attacks on Guatemalan church leaders.
"There is concern here about the paucity of international
accompaniment people," said Dennis Smith, a longtime Presbyterian mission
co-worker in Guatemala City. He says more international witnesses are
needed in the offices of Kaqchiquel Presbytery in the town of
Chimaltenango, about 35 miles outside Guatemala City.
Three Presbyterians in that presbytery received death threats by mail
Aug. 8 after refusing to drop their demand that the government investigate
and prosecute the killers of two Presbyterian human rights workers.
The tortured body of the Rev. Manuel Saquic was found in a shallow
grave in June. Saquic had been vocal in demanding that the government
prosecute those accused of fatally shooting Presbyterian Pascual Serech a
year ago and kidnapping and beating Presbyterian Bartolo Solis this spring.
Both were presbytery human rights worker,
Since the threats arrived, the PCUSA, the World Council of Churches,
the National Council of Churches and members of the U.S. Congress have
pushed the president of Guatemala to protect Lucio Martinez of the Human
Rights Office of Kaqchiquel Presbytery; Vitalino Similox, executive
secretary of the Conference of Evangelical Churches of Guatemala (CIEDEG);
and Margarita Valiente de Similox, president of the presbytery.
"The National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (NEPCG) is
taking a stance that keeping quiet or leaving the country is not for it a
faithful path ... and here is our call to be at their side too," said Julia
Ann Moffett, coordinator for Central America in the Worldwide Ministries
Moffett said international witnesses must be fluent in Spanish, be
willing to remain in Guatemala for two weeks to one month and must be
capable of walking long distances.
Besides the three Presbyterians, at least 20 other church and human
rights workers have been threatened in the Chimaltenango region. To date,
two United Church of Canada accompaniment teams have gone there. A U.S.
delegation from the United Methodist Church visited Kaqchiquel Presbytery's
human rights office immediately after the most recent threats.
Moderator Marj Carpenter and Moffett will be visiting the NEPCG, Oct.
"Terror can still be used to silence people....It is still possible to
wreak havoc on a whole pastoral program by physically eliminating a few key
leaders," Smith told the Presbyterian News Service. He described the
Guatemalan countryside as highly militarized.
Calling the Saquic case "important" and "highly visible," a
spokesperson for the Guatemalan Embassy to the United States said it is
"unusual" for a human rights case to get the high level of attention
Saquic's case has generated.
Military officials in Chimaltenango and representatives of the
Guatemalan government's human rights office, the United Nations Mission to
Guatemala (MINUGUA) and the U.S. Embassy met with a local Presbyterian
delegation at the Kaqchiquel Presbytery office in mid-August.
Guatemala's minister of defense, General Mario Rene Enriquez Morales,
has publicly denied that the military is protecting Victor Roman, a
recently deposed Chimaltenango military commissioner who is charged with
assassinating Serech and is under investigation for the killing of Saquic.
Though another warrant was issued for Roman's arrest Aug. 9, sources
say, he is still at-large. It is rumored the judge who issued the warrant
then sought MINUGUA's protection.
"Accompaniment of the people is a living example of the international
community's knowledge of what is going on. In some ways, it thwarts the
whole intimidation process," said Moffett. She said many investigations go
on in Guatemala, but few actual convictions occur--especially convictions
of those who have military ties.
This time, she said, the international community is pushing for a
conviction, not just an investigation, of Saquic's killers.
At press time, unconfirmed reports from Guatemala say Saquic's widow
is still being harassed and there are rumors another Presbyterian minister
was murdered on the south coast last month. It has not yet been determined
whether that death was related to death squad activity.
Inquiries about the accompaniment teams may be directed to
Moffett's office at (502) 569-5316/5325.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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