The “Desplazados” varied group of Mexican citizens who for a variety of reasons since 1994, including fall out from NAFTA, have been “displaced.” hence the name. You may have heard of the famous masked resistance group called the “Zapatistas.” Since 1994 Chiapas, Mexico southern most state has lived in low intensity warfare, struggling to preserve their ways of life, culture, land and health I went there with a Christian Peacemaking Team to visit the area of conflict and to meet, “Las Abejas,” (the Bees) a nonviolent Christian group. I was eager to learn from them. I did not expect to learn so much about knowing when to dance and when to mourn. I would have got it backwards.
After several days of sitting in workshops in San Cristobal De Las Casas everyone on the peacemaking team was eager to get to the villages. To get there there is a bit of a truck ride, a military checkpoint with guns and lots of questions, and even a lovely hiking trail with wild turkeys. As we were getting close to the village I was excited, giddy almost. These people had stood bravely at gunpoint protecting their families. They were nonviolent heroes, enduring hardship and I wanted to know them. I wanted to hear their names and know there stories. I was nearly beside myself when we arrived. I was thrilled.
We arrived at the small village Xoyep. We had been there no more than a few minutes when we gathered to being hearing their stories. The woman’s face was twisted with pain and tears as recounted here story of being displaced, children in tow, with nothing of her life but what she could carry. The details were horrific and increased with time as they dealt with disease and sustainability as the tiny village in the cloud forest became a village of hundreds in a short period of time.
At that sight in 1997 on December 22nd, paramilitary groups opened fire on the church in Actéal while people were there praying for peace and a good end to the conflict. 45 people died in Church that day, mostly women and children. We were there in time to celebrate a monthly memorial Mass. As far as I could tell this was going to be rough. Based on my experience in Xoyep I didn’t think I had enough tears in me to make it through this and stay hydrated. Boy was I wrong.
The men wore white, the leaders with brightly colored ribbons draped from their hats like full spectrum veils of light. The women donned shawls with bright fuchsia polka-dots. The children san “Bienvenidos!” Their voices went to eleven and you couldn’t help feel like a dignitary or a hero yourself. And Church was no somber affair either. After a few minutes of shock I realized, “oh, we are not here to mourn, we are here to celebrate the resurrection. Is that how this works?” I was surprised to be dancing right there next to the building with the graves of those who died. It was an utter surprise, but this is, after all, how resurrections work.
I would have done it the other way around. I would have done a perky welcome and a somber gravesite. And that is one of the things I needed to learn while I was there. The rhythm of our time there was a kind of easter weekend. We began in death and suffering yet I left filled with the buzzing hope of 200 bees! There were unwilling to stop fighting and still unwilling to take up arms.
To everything there is a season. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4). Where wisdom begins to show its power, what makes heroes out of victims, is learning when to do the right thing at the right time. This is something we must be taught, something I am still learning. Viva la Las Abjeas! Go with Courage. No one but God will have the final say on your lives.