Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Prayers for reconciliation needed!!

We thought at last the ROTARY WATER PROJECT was to become reality. It has struck an unexpected snag. The lower coast, more than 90 villages, belong to two counties; Nahuala and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan. Their central governing headquarters and county seats are in the highlands; each county has a mayor. The land extends from the coastal region through the mountains to the highlands. For over a century there has existed a territorial conflict between these people. The conflict arose when the two leaders, designated governors, in the late eighteenth century, went to war; interesting is that apparent cause of the conflict between the two leaders was a woman. The conflict was violent and over 200 men and women perished. Now the struggle between the two groups is more political and exists mostly in the communities of the lower coast. Traditionally these Mayan Indigenous groups are very stong and determined and have a history to resort to violence to settle conflicts. Their land is one of the few areas of the country where the land is owned communally. That means their land is similar to a large plantation. If you went to the the office of the mayor in the town of one of the two municipalities and you had found land unused you could claim it, and it would be documented and you could work that piece of land. It was yours although you did not hold a legal document. You could sell it to another member of the same community. Now, however. there is no land avaiable. The people of these two counties live side by side and intermingled. Unless you would inquire you would not be aware to which county they are aligned with.

The more serious issue now is politics. Each county has people in all the lower coast communities; each has its own auxilliary mayor and political leaders who compete to offer projects to their people. When the rotary water project initiated the proposal for the water project their were no conflicts apparent and the leaders accepted that the water project for the entire community with gratitude and hope. All were willing to work together to make it a reality for all in the community. This community was chosen because little water pressure existed and many had no water and it was also a very impoverished community.

Unfortunately the Rotarian water project, that the Clinica Maxeña is facilitating, has become tangled in that centuries old conflict. An unrelated dispute has arisen between these two political groups over a classroom construction project for the local school. This construction project blocked access to a road used by some residents of the opposing side. Instead of trying to work out their differences, one group filed a legal complaint against the other political side. The other larger and more influential group retaliated by threatening to eliminate some from the proposed water project. Leaders of both sides have been calling and visiting our representative of the water project to convince him of their actions and to take their position. Clinic representatives have held several meetings, both separately and together, with the leaders of these two opposing groups from the community chosen for the water project. It is difficult to understand how the two sides cannot find reconciliation and agree to work in peace for the completion of this project. The clinic cannot accept the responsibility to facilitate the project when it is being used for an unrelated conflict and exists the intention of one group to eliminate some families from the water project. Tomorrow another meeting of one side of the conflict will come together here in the clinic for further discussion. Please pray that this conflict can be resolved and this important project will not be lost for this impoverished community.

Enclosed a photo of one of the sessions with the two groups in the meeting room of the Clinica Maxeña.