As we work our through the Franciscan Peace Prayer today’s petition is, “Where is hatred let me sow love.”
May the corresponding story remind us to honor the dignity of all people through simple gestures of compassion even in the face of chaos.
The author, Tom McGregor (mission class XIV), served in Columbia from 2000 to 2002. Colombia has been at civil war since the 1960s. For decades, the people have experienced to human rights violations, drug trafficking and terrorism by both guerrilla and paramilitary groups.
|Returned Missioner Tom McGregor
(Colombia and El Salvador, 2000-2002)
“About 9:15 yesterday morning a young man was murdered down the street.
The place where the victim took multiple bullets to the head was not unusual – quiet. In fact I had walked by the place just three hours earlier, not a clue about what lay in store. At that earlier hour my mind had focused on the two dogs up the hill nosing through a neighbor’s trash, reminding me that I should put out the garbage when I arrived back at the house.
I suppose this nondescript area, quiet, unremarkable, where people hardly notice their surroundings, is the reason why the assassins chose it. They pulled the man out of a car and shot him into eternity, then left his corpse sprawled in the gutter, the blood running its way down the hill.
In these parts seeing a man in a pool of blood is – sadly – hardly newsworthy. Though I was a bit curious, I had my reasons for not approaching the small crowd gathered around the dead man. But forty-five minutes later I again passed the scene on my way to the bus stop. Now the crowd, smaller in number, had moved to the other side of the street seeking shade, while the corpse lay by itself in the sun. No police had as yet arrived – no hurry, I supposed.
Someone had mercifully put a sheet over the man, but not very carefully, because as I approached I could see a vast quantity of blood pouring from the crown of his head. I passed a small girl who was walking back up the hill in tears. She was shaken even though neither she nor anyone else knew the victim. He had been brought to the spot just to be executed.
I gave no further thought to the dead man until that afternoon as I began to climb the steep hill leading to our house. The body, I knew would have been taken away hours before. Now in the midst of a late afternoon thunderstorm what physical traces of the killing, especially his spilled blood, would be washed away. I walked umbrella in hand to where the man had fallen, thinking that perhaps part of him could still be flowing under my sandals or washing over my feet.
But I knew that I would really walk by and see nothing, no trace of what had happened that morning. Many times I have passed murder scenes where within hours the people are moving about with startling normalcy, as if a life had not just been taken there. I was wrong.
There on the sidewalk, gleaming against the rain and the wind, a yellow spray-painted cross marked the spot where the victim had lain in the gutter. To the right, against the black asphalt street the yellow paint spelled the words: ‘The power of death cannot destroy life.’
A neighborhood thus supported a man they never knew in life, they gave his death some dignity and shed light on our existence here and the man’s there!”