After the Mass, a talk was given by a CAFOD employee who spoke at length about her official visits to Guatemala and El Salvador. A number of farmers in El Salvador grow maize, which can be difficult as small -scale farmers not only have to battle the inimical physical geography and climate, but also the presence of “middle-men” who buy their maize only to sell it to third parties for exaggerated profits. In many cases, it is the children of these farmers who suffer.
Many children are orphans or have to be looked after by aunts and grandparents as parents have had to move in order to find work. One grandmother who has sadly passed away, confided to the speaker five years ago that she prayed that God would “give me a long life so that I can continue to work for Him.”
In Guatemala, a country plagued by violence both civil and domestic, communities have been blighted by turf wars between rival drug gangs. During the recent disastrous volcanic eruptions, in which scores of people have tragically lost their lives and many are still missing, CAFOD works with local partners to assist people in both their immediate and long-term need.
For the past thirty years, CAFOD has been supporting the Federation of Radio Schools in Guatemala. This service provides education to children who otherwise would be unable to attend school on a regular basis due to transport difficulties and rural isolation. One of the benefits of the radio schools is that broadcasts are made in many of the local languages. For many people of Guatemala, with its large percentage of indigenous peoples, many of whom speak little Spanish, the radio broadcasts in their local languages helps both to educate, inform and instil a sense of community. Communication is vital in the case of recent events, as the radio stations were able to request on air the donation of vital emergency donations, such as toothbrushes, nappies, sanitary towels and items of food.
Furthermore the speaker told the attendees about Fr. Asis, a native of Cape Verde, currently working in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Overcoming the racism of certain police officers, F. Asis feels that his calling is to be a voice of challenge to society, especially for the poor facing eviction from their favelas. Fr. Asis believes that it is essential to listen to people; only then can you truly understand what they need and want. He believes that Jesus did not build churches; instead He brought people together.
Fr Marco Villani SDB