Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The arrest and trial of Jesus, Part 2: Some thoughts on Guatemala

Sunday’s  New York Times reported Rios Montt of Guatemala finally going on trial for genocide. While specifically charged with the deaths of some 1700 Ixill people, some 200,000 mainly indigenous people were killed during the ’80’s under Montt. Another 45,000 missing. Nearly all indigenous people.

I remember meeting Montt, el viejo they called him. His kindly grandfatherly demeanor, his born again piety. And I remember meeting with missionaries, the radio turned loud to foil listening devices. Meeting terrorized Mayans, stories of whole villages disappearing.

And a visit to El Verbo, the church Montt was associated with. Behind barbed wire fences. Barking German shepherds. Their representative in a black leather jacket, sunglasses. You must remember, he said, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world...(Ephesians 6:12). And then we understood. The murdered poor were not even human but demon possessed legions of darkness.

We understood that whereas in most of Central America, the struggle was class-based, Guatemala had a particularly race based reality. The Reagan administration knew of the genocide and denied it. 

We took this truth to our Presbyterian General Assembly in 1983 in Atlanta as part of our comprehensive Central America policy report. And in a late night session, conservatives produced missionaries who allied their work to the Ladino population to testify to Montt’s evangelical faith, to amend our report to pray for him, to prevent an even worse loss of life. That he needed our support. I was enraged. We couldn’t get to a mic. Our missionary friends who worked with los indigenos were prevented from speaking. The amendment passed.

Later , over a late night meal, one of the conservative evangelical leaders kept questioning me. Finally he said why can’t you support our brother in Christ? I rose, drew back my fist. A friend pulled me back. I walked away.

From a  distance I heard, What’s wrong with him? And a friend replied, maybe he’s just seen too many decapitated bodies.  

Thirty years later, vindication. But there is no joy in that. even if an apology from Montt’s North American Christian supporters would be forthcoming. Especially to the people of Guatemala. Which will not happen. 

The point is, the trial of Jesus, the humiliation, the torture, has never ended. It just goes on....

Outside, wet snow is falling. Soli asks me how long its been going on. Dos horas y media, mas o menos, I reply.  John walks Hope to a cab. Cara walks me to the corner...

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