to be fully human had greater importance than that of a whole community losing its capital, its life’s investment. That says something about capitalism today.
Well, you work with scripture like that in relation to problems of oppression in a society like Guatemala, and you don’t have to belabor the point. It doesn’t leave you much choice as to where you have to take your stand.
At one point Jesus stood on the Mount of Olives looking over the city of Jerusalem and began to weep. He wept over the city and he said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if you only knew the day of your salvation,” and he prophesized the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, which actually took place in the year 70 under Emperor Hadrian. We use that passage to ask people to look over their own city with that same perspective: what would Jesus be weeping over in this city? We ask them to adopt the vision that Jesus had for Jerusalem, feeling those same feelings that he had for Jerusalem for their own city.
The next question is what to do about it. Do you just weep about it and grind your teeth or wring your hands? Of course Jesus did far more than that. You have his voluntary going to the cross and then the death and resurrection of Christ, which in the Christian theology is regarded as the primary moving force behind our own personal liberation. So in that submission to crucifixion there is more power than if he had taken up the sword and organized armies or done something else politically. He rejected those old forms of power. He operated entirely outside of the power structure in a position of weakness, but what he did in Christian theology is acknowledged as the greatest force for social change that has been unleashed in history.
So the Indian people involved in the leadership training programs that were part of our church and the communities we were involved with began assuming a far more dynamic role than they had ever played in the four hundred years of their history since the conquest. Before they had just been a zero factor politically. At the last elections, before we had to leave, they were being considered a force to reckon with and were being sought after by the various political parties.
For instance, many communities would be electing an Indian mayor for the first time in their history. Sometimes this worked out well, and other times they would discover that just being an Indian didn’t automatically make somebody a candidate for mayor. They were going through that process of learning by mistakes. Indian kids were going to the university in Guatemala City, and the educational level jumped by leaps and bounds. It was just a fantastic transformation process.
But we knew that we were skating on thin ice. Because when people are used to running the lives of others, making their decisions for them, abusing them, exploiting them, manipulating them, even stealing their property, and just plain having the right of life and death over them, as is the situation for the Indians under the cacique system in the countryside of Mexico and Guatemala — well, when they see that they are losing that control, what they do and how they justify what they do — they call it by all kinds of fancy names — anticommunism. So in Paramos, that was the little town where I had my parish, my name was placed on the hit list. They tell me that I am still referred to down there as “Commandante Ronaldo” and I am accused of being one of the main communists.
Which was ironic, because at the same time we were being leafleted by the guerrillas — whose efforts were well under way and not without some justification — attacking our stand on nonviolence. We were getting it from both sides. Our people would have friends at the university, who would be dealing ideologically with these problems of injustice and oppression.