It’s been over a week since I returned from Madrid, and I’m still processing exactly what it was that I experienced out in Spain. The entire trip was such an energetic collection of encounters which started off in a small Church in Toledo and culminated in a gigantic open-air Mass on an airfield in Madrid. I was given the opportunity to try traditional foods, learn the Spanish lingo and meet people from particularly obscure countries many of us had never heard of before.
We met people from 46 countries
After setting myself the challenge of spotting CAFOD partner nations, out of the 40 possible, I only managed to meet people from nine of the partner countries – Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines – although I did meet people from a further 36 countries in total. My favourite had to be El Salvador, the nation whose national hero is a CAFOD icon and a strong inspiration of mine for speaking out about civil violence within the country which lead to his assassination in 1980.
>>Read more about CAFOD’s work in over 40 countries. Continue reading
So why after forty years of liberation theology is there little improvement in the world, in fact why is it worse than ever?
This was the question raised by South Korean theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, who gave an honest and inspiring paper based on her own experiences and reflecting on why liberation theology was no longer arousing.
She felt liberation theology had become impotent and unexciting, an intellectual exercise which was making no real change.
Just over one year on from Hurricane Stan at the refugee camp in Panabaj, children are playing football with a balloon filled with water on a dusty path, dogs roam around and sleep in the shade.
It’s not yet midday but temperatures are already rising in the rows of temporary shelters, made of corrugated iron.
Further up the hill are the shells of breezeblock houses, which the government started to build until they discovered the area was still vulnerable to future landslides.
Some families have been rehoused but the situation remains precarious for those who remain.
Esteban and his family lost everything in the mudslide in Panabaj last year. They managed to survive as they heard the radio warnings in time. His sister’s family were not so lucky. He is now looking after her two sons who were orphaned.
One thing most people we meet seem to have is a radio. It brings them practical advice, moral support and warns of future hurricanes.
Esteban’s sister Lorenza lives in the temporary shelter opposite. She makes jewellery and belts from beads to sell at the local market, some with quite intricate designs. It can take up to a week to make one belt, which she sells for 115 Quetzales – that’s just £7.
Posted by AngelaP
Filed under CAFOD, Guatemala
Looking out on the silent fishing boats casting silhouettes on the smooth surface of Lake Atitlan, it is hard to imagine the devastation that took place here last year when the area was hit by Hurricane Stan.
Dotted around the lakeshore are more than a dozen villages each with a distinct language, costume and traditions. The largest town, Panajachel, the tourist centre for visitors to the lake, was the first to be hit by the hurricane.
The local radio station broadcast events as they happened until the electricity was cut. Then they took to the streets with loud hailers.
Up to 1,400 people were later buried in a mudslide in the village of Panabaj on the opposite side of the lake despite the best attempts of Radio Atitlan to warn people.
One year after Hurricane Stan, Francisco Cuă Tiney, director of the radio station, describes photos of the response to the disaster, which are still pinned to the noticeboard at the radio station.
“The mudslides destroyed everything. In this picture, you can see people are being taken away in coffins. Here you can see lots of local volunteers…”
After the disaster the radio rallied local people to help by providing food and clothing. Men from Santiago Atitlan went to Panabaj to try and rescue people trapped by the mudslide. The communities were cut off without outside help for days until finally supplies were shipped across the lake.
Images of the disaster and how the radio station helped local people respond are stored on Francisco’s computer. He wants us to see them. He relives the events with each click, willing us to understand what it must have been like.
He’s particularly keen for us to see a photo of a young child who drowned in the lake…He’s lost in thought, I have to look away and recall the photos of help arriving again.
Posted by AngelaP
Filed under CAFOD, Guatemala