Letter of Apology to Yoli Oqueli

Emilie Smith

emilietsmith@gmail.com

Note: On June 13, 2012, community leader Yolanda Oqueli Veliz, was ambushed and shot by unknown assailants on a motorcycle, as she was leaving the peaceful blockade to the entrance of the proposed site of the Tambor gold mine, 28 kilometres northeast of Guatemala City. The blockade has been maintained by inhabitants of two affected communities, San José del Golfo, and San Pedro Ayumpac. They are protesting that—contrary to national and international law—no public consultation had taken place before the Guatemalan government gave the go ahead for the mine on February 27th. The mine is one hundred per cent owned by the Canadian company, Radius Gold, Inc., based in Vancouver, B.C.

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June 15, 2012

Dear Yoli,

I have no words in my heart or mouth that could possibly express my outrage and grief over what has happened. The harm to your precious sacred person is vile and inexcusable. The intended harm to your soul, your spirit, your struggle, and the struggle of all those, who like you, are in love with the Earth—fertile, living dirt, and her lifeblood, running water—is beyond comprehension. All those, around the world, who love life fiercely are horrified and shattered—and furious. How dare any one, whoever they may be, feel themselves so full of righteousness and power, that they would act in such a cowardly fashion! But in the end, those who carried the pistols, are not the ones responsible for this hideous attack on your life. I am.

Never have I felt more ashamed to be a Canadian.

In my Christian religion there are two kinds of sin: sins of commission and sins of omission. The former are things that we do consciously and actively to harm God’s good creation. The latter sins are the harm we do, by doing nothing. Most Canadians, undoubtedly, wouldn’t in their wildest dreams have picked up a gun to hurt you. But every last one of us, is collectively responsible for what happens in our name, and all of us benefit financially from our church, union and even national Canadian Pension Plans’ investment in Canadian mining companies around the world, in Guatemala, and in your corner of the earth, San José del Golfo. For this, I am profoundly ashamed, and indescribably sorry.

Neither is not knowing an excuse. Every one of us, as we quietly remove the Canadian flags sewn onto our backpacks, and pocket those little pins they give us on Canada Day, should know by now: around the world, in our name, and to our financial benefit, Canadian mining companies are destroying the earth. Chasing after the love of gold and money, they care not for communities, the land, the water, or due process of consultation, or the fair sharing of profits. They come, blow the earth up, suck up the water, leaving cesspools of poison behind. And promising trinkets, ‘development’ and jobs to the desperately poor and starving, they divide households and communities, leaving bloodshed and fear in their wake.

And then without a speck of dirt under their fingernails, satisfied that they have done some good for the poor in the world, helped out their moms and their pops back in Canada, retire to their clubs and their pools to relax after a hard day’s work.

You asked me to pray for you, Yoli, that day we spent with you at the blockade. You asked me once and again, with some fear, urgency and perhaps with a sense of what could happen. And you brought us broth with rice, and tortillas, and crackers. We were hungry, and it was good to eat at your table. Thank you for all you gave to us that day, and all that you taught us about the value of the earth, and all of the precious men, women and children, sleeping on the highway to protect their holy hill.

I promised to pray Yoli, and I have, and I will. I pray for your recovery, and return to full health, of body, mind and spirit. I pray for your family. I pray for all those still on the peaceful blockade.

I pray for those who carried the guns, and shot them. May they have a turn in their hearts, and be sorry, and learn to love the true God of Life. I pray for the desperately ill, those mining men and women, who have become so terribly confused, and have aligned themselves with the false god of money, and have betrayed their own most sacred nature.

“Come now you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted . . .your gold and silver have rusted and their rust will be evidence against you . . .” Letter of James 5:1

Yoli, as you lie in your hospital bed, may the unknowable mystery of the healing God of Love, work Her miracle, to reknit your damaged body, and may all those who love you, gain courage and strength from your faithful witness, as we walk together on this journey.

With Love,

Emilie

The Reverend Emilie Smith, is priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, and Co-President of the Oscar Romero International Christian Network in Solidarity with the Peoples of Latin America (SICSAL)
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