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“Visibilizing” Women in Guatemala

A letter from Leslie Vogel, serving in Guatemala

October 2017

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Dear companions in mission,

During my four years here in Guatemala, I have learned, amidst pain, grief, anger, even incredulity, that the lives of women and girls are not valued at all – their lives are often trampled on and treated as less than human. Sadly, I see and hear people (including the U.S. visitors that I host regularly) worry more about sickly, mangy stray dogs we pass on the road than they seem to care about the lives of female human beings in this country. The following words (shared with permission) by my respected colleague, sociologist, radio host and poet, Ana Silvia Monzón, tell the story better than I can:

Recent history in Guatemala
On March 8, 2017, 41 girls* under 17 years of age were suffocated and burned to death [while] they were under state protection in a shelter. Every day [in Guatemala] the news media brings news of sexual violations, abuses, disappearances and kidnappings of girls and boys, violent deaths from stray bullets, or premeditated deaths.

Then yesterday, April 26th, 14 students, nine of them young women, were run over by a driver — still unknown — in the plain light of day, while they were protesting on one of the major thoroughfares of the city because the education authorities won’t improve the conditions of their [schools and] classrooms. One of the students is fighting for her life; her leg has already been amputated … [Note: The student, Brenda Domínguez, succumbed to her injuries and died on April 29th]

The word “indignation” is no longer adequate…

The girls in my country
are abused
-run over
-carved up
-with weapons of all calibers

The girls in my country
are robbed of their dreams
which are exchanged for nightmares
[they] are sentenced to silence
are ordered to be quiet
are stigmatized

For the girls in my country
childhood is far too short
games are unknown to them
too soon they take on burdens that aren’t theirs
too soon they confront the deafness of adults

The girls in my country
are forbidden to have dreams
are denied a future
and if, with all of these warnings,
they unite, protest, demonstrate,
they are condemned without a trial
with no right to a defense
to atrocious deaths
then to scorn them further
they are blamed
put on display
as a warning
so that no one else will dare
to challenge
to contradict
to demand
to speak

The girls of my country
from a very early age
are submitted to a policy of fear
of what will others say
of I can´t
of I don’t have any rights
of a double moral standard
they are overwhelmed by commercial messages
that sell them illusions
then quickly they are administered a strong dose of reality
that permits no happy endings
nor sugary principles
but rather daily mistreatment and beatings
violence in all of its forms and versions

The girls of my country
are punished since time immemorial
-for being
-for existing
-for challenging
this mean-spirited, tight-fisted world

But these girls persevere
they are the ones who take to the streets
-or who resist in their houses
those who shout slogans
-or who write them in their notebooks
those who denounce
-or those who stay silent, but who think, or act
the ones who, with their bodies
demand of us that we place our finger in the wound
that we not look away
that we not forget them
that the steps they have taken
are not yet enough
that we must continue
insisting in the present
(that we must) not repeat the history of impunity
nor allow the ¿future? to escape

Ana Silvia Monzón, April 27, 2017

* Note that the death toll fluctuated from an initial 35 girls, to 41, and then to 43.

The Women’s Ministry of CEDEPCA (the partner institution of the PCUSA with which I work as a mission co-worker in Guatemala) is deeply dedicated to working to visibilize women, over against the devaluing of human life, particularly that of women of all ages, in Guatemala. Efforts begin with a new reading of the Bible with “eyes of a woman,” discovering in Genesis 1:26-28 that God created human beings, male and female, in God’s image and likeness. This may be the very first time a woman hears that she is also created in the image of God and that, therefore, she also has worth and value.

In Guatemala, where the prevailing message in the society, in government policies – and often even in the church – is that girls and women are essentially expendable when they question mistreatment or claim basic human rights, I am very grateful that programs like CEDEPCA’s Women’s Ministry exist. The Women’s Ministry offers classes, workshops and celebrations that proclaim the value and worth of women of all ages because we are ALL God’s creation, and ALL created in God’s image!

I thank you for your support of Presbyterian World Mission that enables the important work of CEDEPCA to continue, and that makes it possible for me to continue to accompany and witness to this important ministry. If you have not yet done so, please consider a contribution today, either through using the enclosed envelope, or through visiting my Mission Connections webpage (see gray box below).

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion and empowerment of the Holy Spirit be with you, now and always.

The Rev. Leslie Vogel

Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,

What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.

After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.

I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.

Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.

Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.

In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?

With gratitude,

Jose Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

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