The sun was rising over the volcanoes and glistening on the water as we sped across the lake. The boat was made of straight fiberglass and really rocked your bum with every wave, but I didn’t care. I was deep in thought, pondering all the people who gave their lives in the villages along the sandy shores during the Guatemalan Civil War. We arrived at the village and walked up the cobblestone streets until we arrived at the church.
One of the young ladies who worked for the church came out to take us on a guided tour of the facilities. We went to a coffee plantation, a sewing facility, a school, a sustainability project, clinic, and numerous other places. There was no question that the church was doing great work. The most striking component of the tour, however, was the continuous portraits, pictures, statues, and representations of a Father Steve in every location.
We were told that Father Steve left his home in Wisconsin to serve as a priest in this small village. Through his ingenuity, the church was able to create projects that helped the community grow and thrive. I was very moved by the stories of Father Steve until someone in our group asked a fateful question, “Where did Father Steve stand with regard to the Guatemalan Civil War?”
The reply troubles me as I type.
The guide laughed and said, “He played both sides and always gave whoever asked him the supplies they wanted.”
The location of these comments weren’t too far from the massacre sites were the Guatemalan military slaughtered tens of thousands of Mayan people and dumped them into mass graves. There is little question as to whether or not genocide took place in Guatemala.
Did Father Steve support the genocide by giving supplies to the Guatemalan military?
When we went back to the church, the guide proudly showed us a medal that Father Steve was granted from the Republic Of Guatemala. Since the peace accords, the presidents of this nation have consistently been former government military personnel from the Guatemalan Civil War. The medal seemed to be dripping with the blood of the Mayans to me.
Father Steve had a responsibility to take a stand against injustice, not to help both sides.
On the other side of the lake, another priest from Oklahoma was killed by government troops while seeking to protect the thousands of Mayan people of his church from being slaughtered in 1982.
Nobody ever came after Father Steve for anything but supplies.
Who would you want as your pastor?
Go and do likewise.