Friday, 22 September 2017
Whilst I´ve been away, there has been lots of things happening in Guatemala.
In fact it´s been a tense time politically.
At the end of August the President Jimmy Morales attempted to throw Iván Velásquez out of the country.
A bit of back story… Iván Velásquez is the Colombian head of the UN backed CICIG (International Anti Impunity Commission in Guatemala), which has been investigating, uncovering and helping to prosecute corruption in Guatemala. They have successfully uncovered and presented evidence for a number of high profile corruption cases involving import taxes (for which the previous President and Vice President are now in prison), human trafficking, drug trafficking, misuse of public funds, amongst much more. They are now looking into illicit funding of political parties and election campaigns. A week before the Presidents attempt to kick out Iván, CICIG had presented papers applying to strip the President of his immunity, in order to investigate him and his party.
Another bit of back story….. Jimmy Morales´ presidential campaign was under the slogan ‘not corrupt, not a thief’.
On that occasion, the Constitutional Court rejected the President´s action, at first temporarily, and then permanently.
Last week, in the midst of preparations for the annual Independence Day celebrations, Congress rushed through a reform to the justice system, which would effectively legalize illicit campaign funding. As many NGO´s and human rights organizations promptly pointed out, the reform also downgraded a number of other crimes (including sexual abuse of children). Guatemalans responded with huge protests. (In turn, some Congressmen then went public to apologise for their vote, ask for forgiveness or simply say that they didn´t know what they were voting for, because they hadn´t had time to read it! Social media have called all the Congressmen who voted for the reform either corrupt or incompetent).
Again the Constitutional Court intervened to suspend the reform.
In the midst of all this, a National Strike was called on Wednesday, when hundreds of thousands of people congregated in front of the national palace in Guatemala City (and in many central squares in different towns and cities throughout the country) to call for the resignation of the President and all the Congressmen who voted for corruption.
The CICIG have made a new application to strip the President of his immunity, and the Congress have voted again to protect him (although with less support than last time!)
This is a difficult time in Guatemala. There are powerful groups with a lot to lose, but the people have seen the impact that their actions and their protests can have (public protests were a key component of the resignation and arrest of the previous President and Vice-President two years ago). But it also leaves significant questions about what would happen next if those resignations occurred.
All congressmen have well –known skeletons in their closets, and some are well proven and are being prosecuted, so the question of who could or should replace all those who are shown to be corrupt is very difficult to answer. And in a country where politics has until recently been seen by the church as a career to be avoided, there is a lack of political leaders of integrity. (I deliberately avoid using the term ‘Christian politicians’ – there are actually some of them – including the President – but that´s not what I mean. Leaders of integrity would life their lives and do their job, based on values of respect and justice, regardless of the personal gain or sacrifice involved.)
In the Latin Link team there, we continue to pray for Guatemala; for an end of corruption, so that the country and ALL it´s citizens are able to live and build a society of integrity.
The last few weeks I´ve been in the UK (on my way to Spain!), and have really enjoyed catching up with various friends in various places... here´s just a few pics ..
Exploring Scarborough with friends who have just moved there...and after a quick swim in the sea there.
Catching up with crazy sisters - and after a slightly longer swim, and much colder waters of the River Dart in Devon!
Monday, 28 August 2017
This last week, I´ve been at the COMIBAM gathering in Bogota, Colombia. This was the 4th Iberoamerican Missionary Congress. COMIBAM began 30 years, as a network of individuals, churches, and mission agencies with a passion for mission FROM latin america and the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal). Since then, it´s been a key network in increasing and improving missions from the region.
It was a gathering of over 1700 people, representing national mission movements throughout the region, and learning together how we can improve what we do.
With the Guatemalan contingent.
At this congress, I was staffing the Latin Link stand, and it was a great opportunity to network and connect with people with the same passion.
A number of other Latin Link members were at the conference, representing different ministries, so it was great to also catch up with them.
On the last day, we managed to have lunch together.
Saturday, 19 August 2017
It´s that time of year again - and I´ve had the pleasure of looking after a step team. This year they´re been working for a project in Guatemala City´s main bus terminal, where they´ve supported educational programmes for children. Lots of games, crafts, teaching, a trip to the pool, dramas, and a morning de-nitting the kids!! All great fun. But they´ve also seen some of the realities in which the kids live - many of them live within the market stalls their families run, and encounter the dangers of drugs, gangs, prostitution and violence every day. A boy went missing (and was later found). A young girl was run over by a car (but is doing well).
At the weekends, I´ve been able to show the team some of the beautiful and historic places in Guatemala.
A great photo opportunity on the way to Lake Atitlan.
All of them proud of their certificates for having completed a Zipwire course overlooking the Lake. And meeting with other Latin Link members too -- lots of conversations about calling, and mission and how God guides each step of our story.
It´s always lovely to 'debrief' the team, and hear what they have learnt, not only about Guatemala and the work, but also about themselves and how God has used the experience to speak to them. Some of the things mentioned this time.... a sense of calling to Latin America that she had not considered before.... another has been challenged about the way in which she uses her finances for God´s kingdom.... a clearer sense of self - or understanding who she is, having faced a number of challenges during the trip..... a great admiration for the project leaders who have such a passion for the kids they work with, that is never switched off at the end of a work-day.... more confidence in working with children or speaking spanish..... a greater awareness of the gifts God has given them, and looking for ways to grow and mature in them.
It always really encourages me!
Friday, 28 July 2017
Saturday, 15 July 2017
I´ve been busy recently with a full house of visitors.... here´s a few pics.