The Bees “Arm” Themselves with God’s Word by Paula Bidle
A newly published tzotzil Bible translation, a ten-year cooperative project between the Diocese of San Cristobal, the Reformed Church of America, and the “tzotziles” themselves, is a sign of hope in the divided communities of northern Chiapas. A long-awaited fiesta to celebrate its was a breakthrough in ecumenical relationships between Catholics and Protestants, mostly Presbyterians.
Then the December 22 massacre at Acteal happened. The official line was that it happened because of infighting among indigenous groups, involving religious groups. We thought that all the hard work to achieve ecumenical cooperation was lost. Both Catholics and Protestants, however, saw the need to meet together as people of God. While the perpetrators and the victims are generally from two different religious groups, both Catholics and Presbyterians felt the need to demonstrate that the division in the area was not a religious one, but was based in politics and economics in the context of low intenity conflict. They felt that it was important to demonstrate their willingness to work together as people of faith.
The fiesta was held in March, with hundreds of people in attendance. It was a joyful event. Jose, a leader of the Bees, and official translator for the Bible, clasped his Bible to his heart and prayed in gratitude when he received his own embossed copy. As Sister E. of the Diocese says, “the brothers know that the Bible is the best food of all.”
Several thousand copies were bought that day, despite the fact that for most the purchase of the Bible would cost three days’ salary. With bills which were old, folded in small stacks, and carefully guarded for the day of the festival, people joyfully announced, “This will be my children’s inheritance.”
The Bibles, however, are beyond the means of the displaced of Chenalho, including the survivors of Acteal which now number some 8,000. Having lost everything in the recent displacements, fifty pesos is a vast sum. The Diocese recognizes that it is important not to give the Bibles directly, and so has created the Cooperative of the Word of God, which would provide the Bibles at half price. The cooperative will store some 2,500 Bibles for displaced families until they have the financial means to buy the Bibles at this reduced price.
The indigenous people of Chenalho would appreciate your support. They have suffered mightily this year. They know that the Bible, for the first time intheir own language, will provide spiritual food which will carry them through this crisis and beyond, and will keep alive their commitment to the creation of the Kingdom of God.
The Diocese is raising support by creating and selling Chenalho tzotzil Bible certificates for twenty-five pesos, equivalent to three dollars (US). This might be a good project for a local church or Sunday school. Larger grants for 10, 25 or even 100 Bibles are also acceptable! In order to ensure tax deductibility and accountability, all of the above donations should be sent to:
Guatemala Refugee Ministries Illinois Conference United Church of Christ 1840 Westchester Blvd Westchester IL 60154
donation should include a letter about what project it is for. Then
please notify me, Paula Bidle, so that I will know to deliver this money
to the above projects. E-mail: [email protected].
We have received a number of urgent response requests from SIPAZ (Servicio Internacional para la Paz), a peace teams project in Chiapas, Mexico, which is associated with both of our partners, Peace Brigades International and Christian Peacemaker Teams. While many of the notices focus on actions of the Mexican government or paramilitaries against individuals, there are common threads in them that can be addressed in letters to Mexican officials and to the US government that supports them.
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Presidente Constitucional de los Estados
del estado de Chiapas