Suicide bombers, attacks, Christians killed in the name of Allah, destroyed churches, and removed crosses. When it comes to persecution and injustice, we immediately think of the Middle East and North Africa. There is just a strip of sea between Italy and this hell, therefore danger is perceived as something very close in this country. Yet, similar tragedies occur also far away, across the ocean. As in the case of Guatemala, where many people suffer and die because pure economic interests prevail there.
Foreign multinational companies plunder the land and dig mines in the open air, which spread dangerous cyanide fumes. If we add rampant corruption and the massacres – also in recent times – of indigenous peoples perpetrated by different military dictatorships, you can see a very clear picture of the tragedy lived in a nation where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people. A slap in the face of poverty.
“Going to Guatemala means getting in touch with extreme poverty”, Father Marco Strona tells Interris. He is a young priest from the Diocese of Matelica Fabriano (Italy) who took his first steps towards priesthood exactly in this South American country.
“I have not decided to become a priest, I have answered a call,” he says with a smile. He felt the vocation when he was still very young, at the age of 18. A challenging course to deal with at that age, so he decided to consult a priest in his city. He has guided and accompanied him all the way. Then he decided to live a different experience.
In fact, his diocese is twinned with that of Huehuetenango in Guatemala, where for over 40 years Fabriano priests go there to serve and help local priests. His first trip to South America lasted a month, during which all the members of his group got up early in the morning and helped the local community to work the land. The rest of the day they were followed by Italian priests, their guides.
“The biggest problem there is injustice – Father Marco explains -. When you live with them, you understand why they suffer.” Children are too poor to go to school, families work tirelessly on the plantations, then see the fruit of their hard work taken away by the huge multinational companies. Besides, in the last three years the country has been struck by an economic crisis due to scarcity of agricultural products.
Often people do not receive any help from the authorities, but from the religious people present in the country. On the whole, the Church is well-thought of, but the figure of the priest is considered inconvenient. On the one hand, he is seen as a minister of a cult, but on the other hand, he is the one who helps to resolve conflicts, an ‘inconvenient’ figure, especially for the government, since priests unite the people.
He had repeatedly traveled to Guatemala in the course of the years, until he returned to the country as a priest, after having been ordered in September 2015. “Parish life has been a real challenge, I was the different one, the tallest, the one who spoke a different language.” Yet, as he has explained, they always welcomed him with open arms.
Now Father Marco is the parish priest of a small village in the hills of the Marche region, but his suitcase is always ready. In his heart, he explains, his life experience in Guatemala has not yet ended. His goal is to continue the partnership his diocese has started many years ago, but also to allow other young people to live the same experience. Not to be leave our Guatemalan brothers to their own devices.