Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Guatemala’s samaritans of the mountains
by Bishop Gonzalo de Villa, Bishop of Sololá, Guatemala
(From the Oct. 21, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
(Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Spanish in the newspaper Prensa Libre.)
Bishop Gonzalo de Villa (IR file photo by Deacon Eric Meisfjord)
The year 2010 is going to be a sadly remembered year in Guatemala, among other things, for having had the most severe winter in memory. The INSIVUMEH says, and the elders have confirmed, that this is only comparable with that of the year 1949.
In that year, however, the population of the country was around 3 million people and the number of vehicles was less than 10,000. There was little road travel compared to our current situation, with two million vehicles and 14 million people.
Sololá and Chimaltenango are the two districts in which I live and in which I primarily travel, and in them the harm and damage from the winter has been devastating, beginning with Agatha and continuing until today. The destruction has made us grieve. In the first place, the numerous human lives lost, those buried in different landslides and washouts; but it has also hit thousands of families, it has destroyed or damaged houses, ruined crops, and in the end there is widespread damage in varying degrees. The roads and highways have also been affected as never before with highways blocked by landsides, washouts, fallen bridges, and so forth.
Amidst the suffering that all of this has meant for so many, today I would like to recount, in order to praise their memory, a group of deceased individuals. Many others died because the landslides surprised them while they were in their houses or while they were traveling for various reasons. Those that I refer to today, however, the samaritans of the mountains, were surprised by death while doing good and risking their lives, to the point of losing them, trying to save the lives of others, travelers that they did not know. They were men and boys from various communities of Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán that, after a big landslide close to Cumbre de Alaska in which various vehicles were buried, went out of their houses into the rain to try to help, to risk themselves in order to save lives of strangers, injured brothers. The second mudslide trapped them. More than 30 people died there.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel, Jesus teaches us who our neighbor is and how to treat him. These brothers from Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixthuacán have left us the ultimate teaching, lived out.
In this, our Guatemala, where so many deaths are the product of violence; where so many die as victims, not always innocent, of evil and crime; to remember the samaritans of the mountains is to remember, with hope and gratitude, these men and boys, indigenous Quichés, Catholic Christians, that were selfless, risking their own lives to save brothers and sisters that they did not know. There are so many whose names appear in media headlines due to frivolous reasons, scandals, or shame, that today I have felt it important to recover the memory and the deed of these brothers that gave us an example of generosity in these times of great hardship. God will have rewarded their delivery, and their memory, as my parishioners, fills me with pride and moves me.
Rest in the peace of the Lord, you who have lost your life while saving lives.
(Translated by Julianne Connell Sachs.)