Guatemala is facing a latent but imminent state of emergency threatening the security of an already fragile nation with complex and likely long-lasting catastrophic consequences. At the moment there are about 2,000 confirmed cases but many more people will die from starvation because of tight regulations and previously existing high levels of insecurity. The restrictions have gotten tighter every week since COVID-19 arrived in Guatemala, and for good reason. However, when businesses are forced into closure, transportation between departments is limited, and strict curfews are put into effect there is also hunger and fear. I'm sure that it comes as no surprise that unemployment, hunger, and anti-social behavior is escalating rapidly.
Although, there are still a lot of unknowns at the moment in terms of how the pandemic will unfold with planes of undocumented migrants arriving daily from the United States who haven't been tested for COVID-19. With already limited food and medical supplies, we are entering a humanitarian crisis.
When I returned to Guatemala, I started working with the Diocese to open a faith-based center for human rights education, research, and collaboration. The goal of Centro Camino del Amor or Way of Love Center is to develop a model for human rights education and outreach that can be replicated across the Anglican Communion in Central America. We are continuing to develop this project, preparing for future programs, writing periodicals in Spanish about human rights and our Christian faith, and starting a conversation about how the Church can advocate for social justice. However, in light of the current landscape, we are increasingly shifting our focus to emergency relief efforts to meet the needs that are surfacing in the wake of COVID-19. As a start, we have secured funding to donate masks to doctors and nurses in an underresourced main hospital in Guatemala City and will be gifting a donation on behalf of the Episcopal Church to four youth detention facilities. In the upcoming weeks, I will also start interviewing individuals to document and monitor the effects of COVID-19. I have also connected with various organizations actively working on the ground and been attending webinars to better understand the current climate and determine ways that the Church can respond.
As for myself, I have no complaints. I wouldn't say life has gotten more difficult since the pandemic, it's just different. Last Friday President Alejandro Giammattei announced that there will be a total lockdown from Friday-Sunday, with 3 hours in the morning to walk to a local tienda to purchase necessary items. This will take into effect every weekend until further notice. The curfew during the week has also been revised slightly. However, I'm trying to make the most of the silence and space in between. My work has definitely changed, but I feel blessed to be able to continue to serve and am gaining more than I ever thought I would as I encounter new challenges every day.
If you would like to check out my latest sermon in English or Spanish you can find the live videos on the Christ Church and San Marcos Facebook page.
Image of a park in Antigua, Guatemala. All parks and public spaces are surrounded by caution tape and restricted for use.